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Old 01-21-2007, 09:34 AM   #1
Alexander Turcic
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Google working on e-book retail platform

Oh goodie, the big day is finally here. According to a report in today's Sunday Times, Google, along with their pals from the publishing industry, are planning to launch an e-book retail platform. Jens Redmer, director of Google Book Search in Europe, is quoted saying that the platform serves as an extension to Google Book Search and targets customers who seek to have online access to e-books with their mobile devices such as the BlackBerry. Beside purchasing books you can also just rent them (such as a travel guide) or buy individual chapters.

My only question is about the usefulness of having online access to books. Mr. Redmer does not mention whether or not you can download purchased e-books and read them offline on your reading device. For me, the latter is a prerequisite for this project to succeed. Also: No comments about the supported e-book format.
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Old 01-21-2007, 09:51 AM   #2
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The big question is: What kind of display?
Is it e-ink (or something similar) it's great. Otherwise it is almost a step backwards.
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Old 01-21-2007, 10:04 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CTH
The big question is: What kind of display?
Is it e-ink (or something similar) it's great. Otherwise it is almost a step backwards.
I suggest you reread the news.
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Old 01-21-2007, 11:07 AM   #4
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I wonder what kind of price difference there will be with Connect?
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Old 01-21-2007, 12:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander Turcic
Oh goodie, the big day is finally here. According to a report in today's Sunday Times, Google, along with their pals from the publishing industry, are planning to launch an e-book retail platform.
First thing that makes me feel uneasy is this quote from the Times:
Quote:
GOOGLE and some of the world’s top publishers are working on plans that they hope could do for books what Apple’s iPod has done for music.
Which to me means "they are going to claim rights over the content that do not exist under law, lock up the content so that users can't copy excerpts and make it hard to read the eBook."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander Turcic
Jens Redmer, director of Google Book Search in Europe, is quoted saying that the platform serves as an extension to Google Book Search and targets customers who seek to have online access to e-books with their mobile devices such as the BlackBerry. Beside purchasing books you can also just rent them (such as a travel guide) or buy individual chapters.
This also makes me uneasy. It seems that you will require some sort of network connection on your eBook reader to get content. This would make such a service pretty much worthless.

"Rent" means that they will require very restrictive DRM - meaning that they will support only restrictive platforms to read the content on. Or, you will only be able to view the content through a browser that has done something with the content to render it unusable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexander Turcic
My only question is about the usefulness of having online access to books. Mr. Redmer does not mention whether or not you can download purchased e-books and read them offline on your reading device. For me, the latter is a prerequisite for this project to succeed. Also: No comments about the supported e-book format.
Which brings me to the last thing that makes me uneasy: the unsaid things.

The vision that I see when I read about this is that it's browser-based eBook service. Each page is delivered separately to your device (i.e. turning the page will require a network connection). The "page" is delivered as a graphic, making it very difficult to do anything with it.
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Old 01-21-2007, 02:48 PM   #6
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The concept of renting books (like the travel guide) reminds me of the early Sony reader that sold books that expired aftrer a period of time. (As I remember reading it was a total flop.) The conept of securing only a chapter of a book (akin to the iTunes function of downloading only a track from an album) seems a little silly for a book -- "I'd like chapter 14 of 'Dr. No' please."

On the other front as I see it, to make the service usable on the Sony Reader for example they would have to follow one of three paths: (1) strike a deal with Sony to utilize their DRM system, (2) find a way to add their own DRM system to the Reader, or (3) offer DRM free books.

I dismiss the concept of downloaded graphical images transmitted to the device on a page-by-page basis. This is too restrictive to become a mass market on the scale that Google is seeking. To even be halfway effective it would have to be implemented over cell circuits rather than WiFi circuits.

Anyway it plays outt it should be interesting.
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Old 01-21-2007, 03:15 PM   #7
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Ugh, I couldn't stand to read a book on my Blackberry. If that is the target it's not even a competitor to eInk readers.
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Old 01-21-2007, 03:37 PM   #8
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The article specifically uses the word "download." But that may be carelessness by a writer who doesn't differentiate between downloading a whole file and reading untethered, vs. reading while connected live. However, if they're after the Blackberry market, page-at-a-time images would be right out.

I think the most interesting thing here is the size of the organization backing the proposal. Google is known for rather "experimental" projects that they may follow up with or not, but they do have access to an awful lot of content, and I don't think publishers will be able to ignore this entry into the eBook market. One way or another, the books are going online. The publishers will not be able to continue to drag their feet. And I honestly don't believe any DRM scheme will hold for long once there are a couple of million eBook readers out there.

It will surprise me if Amazon doesn't either announce or leak some info soon after this.
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Old 01-21-2007, 06:47 PM   #9
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I would love to see either google or amazon (better both) finally get something started...it's going to be DRM laden, no question, but it will have to be useable otherwise the companies won't reach the large audience they need.

the question is...will they offer a "all inclusive" package with bundled ereader device or is it just some Computer/PDA + Internet connection deal?
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Old 01-21-2007, 07:14 PM   #10
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I would love to see either google or amazon (better both) finally get something started...it's going to be DRM laden, no question, but it will have to be useable otherwise the companies won't reach the large audience they need.
You all know my stand on DRM, so I won't go into that.

But "the companies" right now are the problem. Going by the current commercial eBook offerings (like eReader), it seems to me that they still don't "get it": They want to price eBooks at the same price as the hardcover version of the pBook - and that for the DRM version.

For the service to be usable they need to price the ebooks appropriately. No more than 50% the price of the paperback version - with no DRM. Less than $1 if it includes DRM.

"The companies" seem to be unwilling to do that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CommanderROR
the question is... will they offer a "all inclusive" package with bundled ereader device or is it just some Computer/PDA + Internet connection deal?
An eReader device sounds nice - as long as it supports open formats as well.

If it's a computer/PDA+internet connection deal, that raises some DRM issues. They will have to lock down the device/software pretty tight to keep people from "pirating" the eBooks.
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Old 01-21-2007, 07:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rlauzon
First thing that makes me feel uneasy is this quote from the Times:
No one hits a gently pitched ball as well as a trained journalist from a respectable publication. But with the hard curve balls, all bets are off.

In other words, I think you need to take large parts of this "article" with huge grains of salt. The MSM can be very good at bringing you stories about ordinary events and people, but as soon as the topic is a little more "technical," they tend to flounder. There are hints in this article that the author had little to no idea what he or she was talking about.

If I were you, I'd wait for more reports, or go to Google directly.
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Old 01-22-2007, 03:17 AM   #12
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Bad news my friends. Google does not want you to download content for offline reading. Here is the official commentary:

Quote:
The Google Books Partner Program is developing new ways to help publishers make more money from their books. The first of these new tools allows you to sell immediate online access to your books.

With online access, users who discover a book through Google Book Search will be able to pay for immediate access to its full contents. You decide if a book should be available, and you set the online access price. The book will be available to users only through their browser, and only when they've signed in with their personal account. Users cannot save a copy on their computer or copy pages from the book.
Man how they suck!
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Old 01-22-2007, 04:39 AM   #13
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Thankfully Baen is curently working to add other SF publishers to their Webscription system (http://www.webscription.net). Baen books are without DRM and available in several formats. The deal with TOR (biggest SF publisher) did not succeed, but they are working on it.

This is the way to go not some feature/DRM laden online system. Have a look, pay and download.
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Old 01-22-2007, 08:43 AM   #14
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I heard that TOR had their own non-DRM system a while back, but dropped it... anybody know if there was any truth to that rumor?
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Old 01-22-2007, 09:27 AM   #15
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Probably only a rumor. Interestingly the TOR deal failed because a Holtzbrinck manager (TOR is owned by Macmillan and Macmillan is owned by Holtzbrinck) did not want the price to be less than 75 percent of the hardcover price. No problem with the missing DRM.
Toni Weisskopf (Jim Baen died last year) is now working on getting other SF publishers aboard. Maybe later he will try TOR again (TOR is the biggest SF publisher).
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