May 5, 2010

Google’s Summer of e-Loooove


Google Editions log

Google Editions log

The 800-pound gorilla is in the room: Google will be begin to peddle e-books this summer, according to a Wall Street Journal report by  Jessica E. Vascellaro and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg. They report, “Google Inc. will begin selling digital books as early as late June or July, a company representative said Tuesday, jumping into a battle that already involves Inc., Apple Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc.”

As Vascellaro and Trachetenberg note, the company “has been discussing its vision for distributing books online for several years and for months has been evangelizing about its new service, called Google Editions,” and is “hoping to distinguish Google Editions in the marketplace by allowing users to access books from a broad range of websites using an array of devices, unlike rivals that are focused on proprietary devices and software.”

The basic plan? To “allow book retailers–even independent shops–to sell Google Editions on their own sites, giving partners the bulk of the revenue.” Still undecided, however, is whether to let publishers set the prices via an agency model, as five out of the big six publishers are using with Apple for its iPad, and with Amazon for the Kindle.

They may have tipped their hand, however: Google made the announcement during a book industry event hosted by the Book Industry Study Group session held atthe headquarters of the one company that hasn’t agreed to sell books via the agency model yet: Random House.

No mystery about what this means in the world of selling e-books though–the playing field just got much broader. Which is the good news.

On a related note: Google’s digital book settlement, their attempt to win rights to distribute millions of out-of-print, out-of-copyright and orphaned books as MobyLives has been reporting on here and here, is expected to be ruled on very soon by U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin (or whomever succeeds him, as per this report). Rest assured, should they win, Google Editions will be flooded with titles.

Valerie Merians is the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.