Google Launches eBook Store And Mobile Apps

An already crowded eBook market became more crowded today when Google launched the Google eBookstore. Google has agreements with several publishers to sell their books and is also working with smaller book sellers like Powell’s Books to provide those sellers the ability to enter the eBook market.

The store’s launch is not a surprise as they have been working on eBook-related initiatives for some time. You might recall Google Print that Google started several years ago to work with large libraries to scan out of print books, which lead to to a class-action lawsuit from the Authors Guild. The lawsuit settled earlier this year, clearing the way for Google to provide the the books it scans in their store. If the Google eBookstore can sell books that cannot be found at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, it could have a competitive advantage.

Google is using the ePub format for their books, with paid-for books encrypted using Adobe’s DRM. The use of Adobe DRM means that you cannot read Google’s eBooks in Apple’s iBooks app, but Google is providing a Google Books app for the iPhone and iPad. Of course, Google is also providing an Android version of the app as well as a web version, and provides synchronization between the apps on the different devices. All Google eBooks can also be manually copied to the Barnes and Noble Nook and Sony Reader devices.

The Google Books apps have the basic functions like changing the font size and type face, but it doesn’t have the ability to highlight text, copy text, or add notes. The iPad version has a 3D page turn effect like other eBook apps for the iPad that can be turned off, however page turns on Android are only swipes. You can swipe or tap to turn pages on Android.

A simple scan through the Google eBookstore shows book prices that are comparable to the prices at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so out of print books, support for multiple devices, and the partnership with independent book sellers are the key differentiators for Google. I don’t think the market will support so many eBook platforms and bookstores, so I expect to see some consolidation in the near future, and I am curious whether competition will lead to lower eBook prices.