Google is expected to launch a digital book-selling unit called Google Editions sometime this summer according to report filed with the Wall Street Journal. With Kindle and Apple focused on proprietary systems, Google is breaking away from the traditional business model allowing users access to books across platforms and Web sites using an array of both Web and mobile devices.
Differing from its rivals, Google Editions will be able to offer 'search' as a point of entry and touch-point that neither Apple nor Kindle can compete with. Google users will be able to purchase books through the search giant's Book Search service and book retailers and independent shops will be able to sell Google Editions on their own Web sites, where Google is promising them greater revenue-share than Apple's iPad or Amazon's Kindle.
Chris PalmaAt this point in time, Google hasn't made a determination whether publishers will set the retail price or whether Google will remain in control of pricing. Chris Palma, Google's manager for strategic-partner development indicated at an event called "The Book on Google: Is the Future of Publishing in the Cloud," that users would be able to read books from a web browser or any eReader device.
Since there was no word about Google developing its own eReader device, the publishing route is Google's attempt to enter the competitive space of eBook sales and distribution.
Evan Schnittman"This levels the retail playing field," said Evan Schnittman, vice president of global business development for Oxford University Press. "And as a publisher, what I like is that I won't have to think about audiences based on devices. This is an electronic product that consumers can get anywhere as long as they have a Google account."
The search-find-buy model is definitely going to give Google a leg-up over Apple and Kindle. Scnittman believes this will generate significant gains in revenue as it "tears down barriers."
The big question lies in whether Google's Book Search can scale up. Presently it has a relatively small following compared to Google's mainstay search service. However the functionality of Book Search works just like a Web search. When Google finds a book with content that contains a match for a visitor's keywor search terms, it will link to it in their search results. And if it's in the public domain, searchers are actually entitled to a free download of a PDF copy.
Since Google will be operating in the 'open' space of the cloud, Apple and Kindle might need to rethink their current business models. While Apple's iPhone and iPad are infamously known for their "walled garden," similarly Erik Sherman called the Kindle platform "a roomy prison." However, until Google entered the picture, Apple was gaining on market share because it only charges publishers 30 percent of the sales price, where Amazon only pays 35 percent of the the retail price to the publishers.
Rupert Murdoch who has been known for heavy-handed criticism against Google Search for allowing searchers to access his online publications for free - presently favors iPad's deals over Amazon's, simply because the "pay better."
So, while the eBook selling wars begin to heat up and these three players continue to jockey for position, you might also see Barnes and Noble's Nook and the Sony Reader jump back into the fray to make this even more interesting - when Google Edition rolls out in June or July.
For more detailed product comparisons amongst eReaders devices- see "Top Kindle, Nook & Sony eReaders' Product Comparison Reports."