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Old 06-01-2009, 10:52 AM   #1
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Google throws down the gauntlet, announces plans to sell e-Books (NYT)

According to this article from the New York Times, one of the biggest events at the recent BookExpo was the announcement that Google intends to implement a system to enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google.

Quote:
Google appears to be throwing down the gauntlet in the e-book market.

In discussions with publishers at the annual BookExpo convention in New York over the weekend, Google signaled its intent to introduce a program by that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google. The move would pit Google against Amazon.com, which is seeking to control the e-book market with the versions it sells for its Kindle reading device.

Google’s move is likely to be welcomed by publishers who have expressed concerns about Amazon’s aggressive pricing strategy for e-books. Amazon offers Kindle editions of most new best sellers for $9.99, far less than the typical $26 at which publishers sell new hardcovers. In early discussions, Google has said it will allow publishers to set consumer prices.
We've got plenty of questions about this new development, like whether there will be regional restrictions on sales, whether the books will be locked into a drm-scheme (and if yes, which one?), which formats will be available, and whether the books will be necessarily tied to a browser or whether standard formats like ePUB will also be available which can be read on a dedicated device:

Quote:
Mr. Turvey said that with books, Google planned to sell readers online access to digital versions of various titles. When offline, Mr. Turvey said, readers would still be able to access their electronic books in cached versions on their browsers.

(...)

Mr. Turvey said Google’s program would allow consumers to read books on any device with Internet access, including mobile phones, rather than being limited to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle. “We don’t believe that having a silo or a proprietary system is the way that e-books will go,” he said.
Since Google has already adopted the ePUB format for its partnership with Sony, we're hoping they'll follow through in this program as well.

It will also be interesting to see the prices proposed. Google intends to allow publishers to set their own prices; but "Mr. Turvey said that Google would probably allow publishers to charge consumers the same price for digital editions as they do for new hardcover versions. He said Google would reserve the right to adjust prices that it deemed “exorbitant.”" If Google really is hoping to take on Amazon with this move, as seems plausible, publishers will have to make some big adjustments in their pricing policies. It will be very interesting to see what Google considers "exorbitant" prices, and how they will adjust them.

Given that one of the biggest hurdles facing widespread adoption of e-books is still the overall dearth of content (although Amazon has been making progress in that area), this could be the best news of the year, if it's implemented wisely.

And making content available and easy to find should also help to limit illicit file-sharing of books, which would conveniently knock out another argument against going digital often presented by publishers and authors alike.

We'll be keeping a close eye on this, and if all goes as planned, we should know more soon: Google plans to go live with this project by the end of 2009.

UPDATE : in a related article on Computerworld:

Quote:
In a move that seems to target Amazon.com's Kindle business, Google said in a statement that it wants to build and support a "digital book ecosystem" to allow its partner publishers to make their books available for purchase from any web-enabled device, whether it is a PC, a smart phone, a netbook or a dedicated reading device, the company said.
That sounds very promising.

Thanks to eagle-eyed MR member anurag for spotting the news.

Related : Sony Partners With Google To Bring More Than 500,000 Books To The Reader

Please join the ongoing discussion here.

Last edited by zelda_pinwheel; 06-01-2009 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 06-01-2009, 11:56 AM   #2
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I wonder if this means we'll get an android powered eBook at some point.. Gbook?
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Old 06-01-2009, 12:10 PM   #3
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quite possibly. in any case, i'm sure android will have ports of all popular reading apps (i seem to remember that stanza is in progress or already available, and perhaps fbreader too ? corrections welcome, i can't remember precisely).
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Old 06-01-2009, 12:27 PM   #4
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I believe competition is a great thing.

But, if publishers exploit competition among distributors, to offer "exclusivity," in exchange for higher prices, then it would be up to consumers to say "no." (And I suppose "piracy" will act as a leveler, too.)
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Old 06-01-2009, 03:35 PM   #5
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I don't think competition is a good thing just yet.

We need Amazon running ramshod over the publishers for a few more years, entrenching ebook technology and the prices thereof. We need the publishers to have to be more or less forced to deal with this new technological and not marrily go on on as they please.

E-books have no business being as high as a real book, even without DRM.

So this actually worries me a bit. I'd much rather see what happened with iTunes. One store sets a price point, dominates the market, forces the music companies to deal, once everyone is used to the new price point the music companies are forced to work with other companies (Amazon and eMusic, for instance) who set even lower prices and remove the DRM - end result: no DRM on music in the major stores anymore and decent prices!

So Google stepping into the ring might be bad. It depends on how they go. If they only support ePub it'll be a problem, so here's hoping.

Publishers won't adapt like they need to unless they HAVE to. They need the screws put to them.
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Old 06-01-2009, 03:41 PM   #6
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But it won't be a bad thing if they go world-wide, as the rest of us (92%) don't have access to the kindle or its bookstore.
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Old 06-01-2009, 03:44 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheese bogart View Post
But it won't be a bad thing if they go world-wide, as the rest of us (92%) don't have access to the kindle or its bookstore.
Good point, and as aggressive as Google has been so far in the eBook marketplace I do not see them going soft on the publishers so I think they will be a help (along with Amazon) in pressuring publishers. They already stated that they would control outrages prices.

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Old 06-01-2009, 04:26 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by zelda_pinwheel View Post
Mr. Turvey said that Google would probably allow publishers to charge consumers the same price for digital editions as they do for new hardcover versions.
Hmmm. So I have a choice of AnyReader and a price per book of $27, or Kindle and a price of $9.99.

Let me think...
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Old 06-01-2009, 05:05 PM   #9
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Quote: "...Mr. Turvey said that with books, Google planned to sell readers online access to digital versions of various titles. When offline, Mr. Turvey said, readers would still be able to access their electronic books in cached versions on their browsers....

Mr. Turvey said that Google would probably allow publishers to charge consumers the same price for digital editions as they do for new hardcover versions. He said Google would reserve the right to adjust prices that it deemed “exorbitant.”"


Hm, I may take back my "competition is good" comment. This seems more like a Trojan Horse, than competition.

Do I read the first paragraph above correctly, to mean that the user is basically "renting" the file, with the ability to read it off-line in a cache (presumably DRM-ed)? In a BROWSER?!!

And for this, they expect "the same price for digital editions as they do for new hardcover versions..." ???!!!!
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Old 06-01-2009, 06:04 PM   #10
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There is the computer world article just released.

http://www.computerworld.com/action/..._pm_2009-06-01
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Old 06-01-2009, 07:56 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonist View Post
Quote: "...Mr. Turvey said that with books, Google planned to sell readers online access to digital versions of various titles. When offline, Mr. Turvey said, readers would still be able to access their electronic books in cached versions on their browsers....

Mr. Turvey said that Google would probably allow publishers to charge consumers the same price for digital editions as they do for new hardcover versions. He said Google would reserve the right to adjust prices that it deemed “exorbitant.”"


Hm, I may take back my "competition is good" comment. This seems more like a Trojan Horse, than competition.
Nah, more as though they're going to do html versions (the thought alone is making me cringe). Or alternatively it could just be that Mr. Turvey or the reporter don't know what they're talking about or writing..

Quote:
Do I read the first paragraph above correctly, to mean that the user is basically "renting" the file, with the ability to read it off-line in a cache (presumably DRM-ed)? In a BROWSER?!!
I'd say there's too little meat to the story to go on.
Anyway, if the product doesn't compete on features, it will likely bomb; and if there's one thing that's true about Google it's that Google isn't stupid about new tech. As such, I doubt they will be doing this as stated here.

Quote:
And for this, they expect "the same price for digital editions as they do for new hardcover versions..." ???!!!!
I suggest you read "reasonable" as a fairly stringent requirement. Why would Google create a product that doesn't create revenues? The whole point of Google is free services with ads. I doubt they are going to switch to an "idiotic pricing schemes with total control out of their hands".
I would rather suggest they're trying not to scare away the publishers from the get-go.
Quote:
Google's approach of supporting any device for accessing e-books will ultimately prevail. Enderle said. "People want to buy something and read it on anything they have," he added. "Google seems to be less concerned with keeping publishers happy and moving to the end game of giving the consumers the ability to buy what they want more freely."
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Old 06-01-2009, 11:03 PM   #12
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There's a WallStreet Journal Article that confirms Google's Goofy approach to ebooks.

Quote:
Google could prove to be a significant challenger for Amazon, which sells e-books specifically formatted to work with its proprietary Kindle. A key difference would be that the search giant aims to let Google Book Search users "buy access" to copyrighted books with any Web-enabled computer, e-reader or mobile phone.

Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker said consumers would not be able to download books in the same way Amazon's customers can buy copies of specific titles and store them on their Kindle. Instead, people who access books through Google would be able to read titles online and temporarily cache them in their Internet browsers so they could also read them offline.
So let's get this straight. You can only buy "access" to the book. You can't store the book on an eReader. Current devices that use eInk can't even view the books (unless you count Amazon's browser access). And these books will likely cost more than Amazon's books.

What on earth are they thinking? This is going to fail miserably.
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Old 06-06-2009, 10:22 AM   #13
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Google has made a deal with the publishers so they do not have to face the ebook market. What is the profit for a ebook vs hardback if both is $26? Give me a break. Google like Amazon can use it's muscle to get a better deal.
The publishers seem like they will have to be dragged kicking and screaming into this century.
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Old 06-07-2009, 09:52 AM   #14
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I cannot see any reason for the publisher to charge the hardcover price for an e-book. No warehouse, no truck, no printer, no shipping. The other costs of production do stand.

Certainly one should not blame the author, who has no choice in the pricing. I also question whether the publisher has upped the author's percentage in this transaction. I don't think they have done that.

And knowing the industry's conservatism, incredible as it seems, I would suspect their reason for maintaining the hardbound price at that stage is a simple one: they would have to alter their accounting software; and creating a whole new category within that system seems to be a major, major undertaking.
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Old 06-07-2009, 10:00 AM   #15
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Is it not the case, though, that the hardback "print run" is generally priced to recoup all the publisher's up-front costs of production - ie editing, publicity, etc, etc? That was certainly the norm when I was an author, although that was now many years ago.
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