Google grenades the ebook punchbowl

I dare say that if you’ve an interest in publishing as an industry, you’ve already heard that Google has announced its own ebook store will open late this year. A summary from Tomorrow’s Trends:

Google stated that it will allow publishers to set eBook prices.  The cost of the eBook will probably be higher than Amazon’s current eBook prices.

This will certainly start a format war.  Google does not have a dedicated eBook reader and I do not see them getting into the eBook hardware game.  This will push companies to create eBook readers that will connect to Google’s new store. Certainly Amazon is ahead of everyone in regards to ease of use and the ability to download eBooks via a wireless connection.  Hopefully this will give all of us multiple choices on purchasing eBooks.

Credit where it’s due, the Big G knows the value of biding its time for the right moment. This is the game-changing announcement that I’ve been expecting for the last nine months, the potential trigger for an explosive growth phase in ebook hardware and distribution. An analogy to digital music seems appropriate: the Kindle and the Sony Reader are your iPod equivalents, tied to specific content-buying channels and/or file formats to keep the profits as close to their makers (and their partners) as possible. Now the ubiquitous Google is getting in on the game of selling the content, savvy tech firms will be watching closely to see which file format wins the popularity war, before starting to churn out affordable generic readers that can display them without restriction.

Now, as discussed before, ebooks are probably never going to be as big a deal as downloadable music has become (though one can dream, right?), but I’m confident that this will be the tipping point at which another content market suddenly leaps into the digital domain. Hopefully by Christmas time this year I’ll be able to get a decent eInk device that doesn’t lock me in to one content provider, just like my charmingly generic media player…

2 thoughts on “Google grenades the ebook punchbowl”

  1. “Hopefully by Christmas time this year I’ll be able to get a decent eInk device that doesn’t lock me in to one content provider”

    If the content-lockdown of the two big players is the only problem, and you want a comparable product to Sony and Kindle, then I have good news: Santa may visit early this year.

    First there are the iREX readers (, which can deal with pretty much every format I’ve come across so far.

    Then there’s the Cybook by Bookeen (, which is also about as free as it gets.

    Now if Google can make the publishers to “go digital” on all their releases, the arguments for classical paper are rapidly getting fewer.

  2. Formats don’t really matter (I think Doctorow pointed this out in an interview), DRM matters. You can have as many different flavours of file format floating around as you like, as long as they all play on all the different machines. DRM, I think, is what often prevents that being the case. Take away the DRM, and it’s not so much of a problem.

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