Google launches eBooks, eBookstore

Book fans can buy e-books from independent sellers via a new cloud-based e-publishing system

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Weiner said he expects that the Android operating system, and the Chrome OS, will eventually be used to develop special e-book-reading apps that allow for the sharing of books and highlighting of passages -- features that competitor Barnes & Noble already provides with the Nook reader.

A major focus of Google's e-bookstore has been on independent booksellers and publishers of academic books, Google officials said.

Publishers, bookstores pile on

About 4,000 publishers are part of the U.S. launch of Google eBooks, ranging from Random House and Penguin to the Oxford University Press, McGraw-Hill and Wiley, said Amanda Edmonds, director of strategic partnerships for the Google eBooks team.

Also, about 200 independent bookstores in the American Booksellers Association will be able to use the Google eBook platform to sell books, sharing profits with Google without the need to build an online platform, she said.

Powells, an independent chain of bookstores in Oregon, and Alibris are aligned with the Google system also, Edmonds said.

In essence, users will be able to discover and buy new e-books from the Google eBookstore or get them through the independent bookseller partners.

"The local bookstore can tap into that e-book infrastructure and can sell e-books, something they've been shut out of today," Edmonds added.

Weiner said that, depending on the kind of e-book that's sold, Google will get 20% to 30% of the price.

Social network hooks for books

Google is also working with a social networking site for book lovers called Goodreads, Edmonds said. With Google's involvement, a user on Goodreads could pick up a recommendation of a book from a friend on the site, then click through to buy the book.

"Wherever you are on the Web, if it's making searches on Google, or at a retail site that is featuring a novelist you are interested, or reading a person writing a blog, you should have that ability to click through and buy a book," Edmonds said.

Crawford said Google eBooks will be available for purchase in the U.S. today and outside of the U.S. sometime in the first quarter of 2011.

Google first began is Google Books initiative in 2004, based on the belief of its founders that information in the world's books should be made accessible online, Crawford said.

Since that time, Google has digitized 15 million books from 35,000 publishers and more than 40 libraries, and from more than 100 countries, Crawford said. Those digitized books will continue to be searchable through Google Books in the research section of the eBookstore.

Google first announced its Google eBook concept in late 2009. Crawford said forging thousands of contractual agreements with publishers and partners and orchestrating "many moving parts" contributed to the time to launch. The internal testing of browsers started in July 2010.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at  @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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