McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers | Google Inc. plans to begin
selling e-books this summer over a platform that would allow readers to
load the books onto multiple electronic devices, the company said
The search giant outlined the plan during a panel discussion in New
York that was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The service is
called Google Editions and will allow users to buy e-books directly
from the company, as well as through other retailers.
No details were given regarding the price of books or which publishers would participate in the project.
Gabriel Stricker, a spokesman for Google, acknowledged Tuesday that the Google Editions service was being targeted for a launch sometime this summer. The service would also be “device-agnostic” — meaning that any Internet-enabled device could download and read the books, he said.
Such a move would position Google to compete in the fast-growing e-book market with Amazon.com and Apple Inc. Amazon launched its Kindle e-reader in late 2007 and has since taken a commanding lead in the market.
Apple launched its iPad tablet last month, along with its iBookstore service to sell e-books for the device. The company said Monday it has sold 1 million iPads and 1.5 million copies of e-books in the past month. Amazon has never released sales data for the Kindle.
The Kindle is a proprietary device that only reads e-books purchased from Amazon. Books for the iPad must be purchased through Apple; if a user has downloaded the Kindle app, titles can be downloaded from Amazon.
Google’s proposed system would not be locked to a particular device. The service also has the potential to offer far more titles than those offered by Amazon and Apple, as Google has already digitized some 12 million books into its Google Books service. Many of these are out-of-print titles.
The company is working to win over publishers to its proposal. The event Tuesday was sponsored by the Book Industry Study Group and held at Random House’s Manhattan offices under the title: “The Book on Google: Is the Future of Publishing in the Cloud?”
The Google Editions service will launch whether or not the company is able to reach a settlement with authors and publishers over rights to millions of out-of-print books that are still under copyright protection, according to Stricker. The service will involve titles that are in print and covered under an agency deal with publishers. Out-of-print titles may be added if the settlement is successful.