Google Editions e-book venture to launch by year's end

Recent federal court opinion on Google settlement with authors and publishers may have helped smooth the process

Google will launch its e-book retail business, now being called Google Editions, in the U.S. before the end of the year after months of delays, a Google spokesman confirmed today.

The spokesman gave no reason for the delay and declined to give other details. A Google executive had said in May that Google planned to sell digital books last summer .

The Wall Street Journal reported today that the venture had cleared some technical and legal hurdles and that Google Editions would launch in the U.S. by year's end and internationally in the first quarter of 2011. A federal court recently gave preliminary approval to a settlement agreement between Google and authors and publishers, which apparently has given further impetus to the Google e-book concept.

Under the Google system, independent booksellers are expected to be able to sell e-books through Google Editions and they have received contracts to make that happen, according to the WSJ report. Independent booksellers would be benefit the most from Google's concept.

As early as May, Google said it would allow users to buy books from a broad range of Web sites while using different devices. Google will compete against, and Apple Inc., among others, but could distinguish itself with a diversity of e-book sources and reading platforms.

Google is expected to allow e-book purchases through a Google account accessed through a Web browser . Many smartphones , computers and tablets access the Web through a variety of Web browsers.

Google already offers a service called Google Book Search, which allows users to search and preview millions of books from libraries and publishers globally. The new Google Editions would allow users of Book Search to buy a digital copy of a book, and Google would allow book retailers to sell Google Editions books on their own sites.

Part of the reason that Google Editions is moving forward now is apparently due to preliminary approval on Nov. 19 in a U.S. District Court in New York of a settlement between Google and authors and publishers. Google has described the agreement on its Web site .

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 .

Read more about e-business in Computerworld's E-business Topic Center.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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