updated 09:55 am EDT, Thu October 15, 2009
Google e-book store due next year
Google today set out official plans to launch its own paid e-book store. Known as Google Editions, the service will be one of the few truly universal stores and will work with any device that has a reasonably modern web browser, including most computers, smartphones and even normally locked-down devices like the Amazon Kindle. Unlike some web book services, Google's store will let users cache a book locally for reading when they're offline.
The initial catalog will have between 400,000 and 600,000 books, some of which are expected to come from Google's controversial online rights registry, which handles out-of-print titles or those whose authors are difficult or impossible to track. Critics have attacked the deal for allegedly giving too much control to Google over the fate of books and for letting it dictate pricing. Google has responded by arguing that many of these rare books would otherwise be permanently lost and that authors who make contact can change the terms of royalties.
The service will run on Google Checkout to handle purchases and should give the majority of revenue to publishers, with some revenue left for itself. The revenue split and typical book prices aren't yet available.
A formal launch isn't due until the first half of 2010.
A move of the sort is critical for Google, which already has downloadable books but has so far limited them to free, public domain titles and classic magazines. It already has deals with Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony and other companies to offer the free books through their proprietary stores.