Monday, 1 June 2009

Google to sell ebooks

The New York Times reports that Google is to introduce new technology that will make it possible for publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers, thus effectively bypassing Amazon. According to the report, the ebooks will be available in several formats, and will not be targeted specifically at the Kindle device. One major factor in the move is pricing - under the Google scheme, publishers will be allowed to set their own prices, something that does not happen presently with Amazon's Kindle-based ebook marketing.


Eric Dickens said...

There was an article in the Daily Telegraph (28th May 2009) comparing four reading devices: Cool-er, Amazon Kindle 2, iRex ILiad and the Sony Reader.

The prices vary between £189 and £449 and the Kindle can evidently store 1,500 books, the Sony up to 160 books.

The article by one Claudine Beaumont looks like a plug for the British Cool-er, the cheapest of the lot. And Cool-er evidently has its own bookstore (an Americanism, like the word "purse" used in a quote?).

David McDuff said...

Yes, but the crucial point in the NYT report is that, unlike Amazon, Google plans to sell ebooks for dedicated devices like Kindle, Sony Reader, etc. but also for the mobile phone/handheld pda market. Google's ebooks will be downloadable and readable on any Internet-connected device.

David McDuff said...

The Telegraph's Cool-er article is here. I agree that it looks like a plug.

Eric Dickens said...

I see the point about fair competition and dedicated devices. Haven't the EU single market people been able to prize open anything that would have the whiff of a monopoly? Even though readers buy their device from someone else, the cost of buying the one-off readership for the books themselves will be paid to Google.

This reminds me, mutatis mutandis and on a grander scale of course, of the way that HP sells you a printer cheap, but then makes sure that the ink cartridges are excruciatingly expensive. If Google allows readers to use other companies' devices, it can still make money from charging a lot for the right to print the e-books that they control.(Google will also be monopolising the orphans world.)

There are too many big players muscling in on the book market, now that people have realised that books is not only highbrow fiction and poetry, but bestsellers and other mass-market "products".

Technology is not neutral; there are market and cartel forces at work. I still feel that it is a dubious privilege to be able to download 1,500 books for about £250 technical equipment outlay, and play with between 4GB and 8GB of memory, when you only have one pair of eyes, one purse, and one attention span.

Surely most commuters want to read one book at once, only rarely referring to other books as they sit on the Birmingham-Euston express, or equivalent. Those doing research surely do it better in the quiet of the office.

Another problem I see is the choice of books involved. This could also be channelled in the direction of bestsellers, crime novels and similar, leaving so-called "minority tastes" high and dry.

I've nothing against the technology of the reading gadgets, but the legal and social aspects still require some analysis.

Reg / Steve said...

FYI, Google has a class action suit going against it in the US at least. Their stated intent is to digitize every book on the planet. Whether copyright holders will be fairly paid is another question.

David McDuff said...

Yes, we're aware of the class action suit, and have been covering it in this blog - in, among other posts, this one.

The final outcome is still in the balance, however, and I expect that there will be further delays and extensions of the Google "deadlines", as more authors and publishers become aware of what's at issue for them here, not only in the U.S. but around the world.