Google dives into online bookstore business

Watch out, Amazon! Google to sell e-books that can be read on multiple devices

Watch out, Amazon.com. Google Inc. is getting into your game.

The Internet company announced this morning that it's launching an online e-book store called Google Editions where users will be able to buy digital books that can be read on a range of gadgets, including e-book readers, laptops and cell phones, according to a report from the Associated Press. The store is slated to open next year.

Google, which did not respond to a request for comment, made the announcement this morning at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. Press reports out of Germany note that Google plans to offer up half a million e-books from the get-go.

"Google is taking the e-book arms race to another level with their highly anticipated entry into the market," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "The market leader, Amazon, built its position with a closed device, Kindle, which is limited to reading and buying eBooks. It will be interesting to see how well it stacks up against Google's strategy of delivering ebook capabilities via the Web to any device that can connect to the Internet. This gives Google a vastly larger addressable market than what Amazon has built up with Kindle so far."

According to Olds, a larger market means Google's e-book business could grow very quickly depending on how well the company can execute the book-buying process.

"I can see where retailers would be attracted to Google's platform - at least those retailers who believe that ebooks are eventually going to have a significant share of the market," said Olds. "But Google will also have to convince publishers to go along, as well. You can only sell so many copies of public domain books before you run out of people who are tired of reading The Pilgrim's Progress."

The book business has been a tough subject for Google lately. While Google has been trying to amass a digital library of books, some authors and publishers argue that the company's efforts need more privacy safeguards. The authors and publishers are also bringing up copyright and financial issues.

Just last month, more than two dozen authors and publishers filed an objection to a proposed settlement that would allow Google to digitize and sell millions of books, saying that the agreement ignores important privacy rights of readers and writers.

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