Google has long been hyping its plans for an e-bookstore, and that outlet was officially launched yesterday. Finally. The electronic bookstore offers 3 million books, it is selling books from 4,000 publishers, and it's offering millions of books for free.
There are a few things that defined the launch of this store as uniquely Google's. First, the service isn't going by the same name it was rumored to be called throughout the hype period. Rather than "Google Editions," we now have "Google eBooks." So, great.
Secondly, the launch was welcomed with vague excitement from The New York Times: "After years of planning and months of delays, the search giant Google started its e-book venture on Monday, creating a potentially robust competitor in the digital book market to Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple."
Potentially! But, you know, we'll see!
Oddly enough, the move has also attracted interest from unexpected places. The vapid celebrity gossip site PerezHilton.com put up a piece today entitled "Google Sells E-Books Now!" in which the author mused, "We're interested to see how this plays out, but we're a bit concerned. Is Google still going to let us search for the Barnes and Noble website? How about Borders? They're getting PRET-TY powerful! Will U pick up eBooks on Google?"
Well... will U?
People have been eager to deem Google's impending e-bookstore the Killer of All Other Things E-Readable since the company first hinted at entering this space. But, as you brilliant Internet Evolution readers are PRET-TY well aware, that's not what's going to happen.
But first, let's be nice and list some things that make Google's efforts here interesting.
One positive quality of the new service is that users can set up an account on Google eBooks and then read their books on just about any device. Regardless of which device users are reading on, their books will open to where they last left off. Further, independent bookstores that have partnered with Google will be able to sell Google's e-books on their own sites. This allows for these bookstores to get into the e-book game, and for consumers to do their shopping in more than one location.
Still, there are problems, some of which still involve Google's ambitious plan for scanning and cataloguing all books. Melville House Publishing, an independent publishing house, discussed in its MobyLives blog today some content issues with Google eBooks, such as incorrect metadata; and the fact that the first suggested listing for A Tale of Two Cities is incomplete -- volume II, sans volume I. Another listing for A Tale of Two Cities uses for its subtitle "Hard times for these times" -- the name of another Dickens novel. (As of press time, Dickens could not be reached to comment on this egregious error.)
Then there is the major issue of formats. While Google intends for its eBooks to be read on basically any device, consumers won't be able to read those eBooks purchased from Google eBookstore on the Amazon Kindle, because the Kindle doesn't support the ePub format.
That's more of a problem with Amazon than it is with Google, and it is detrimental to the consumer if all e-books are not compatible with all devices. But, unlike Amazon, Google doesn't have an e-reader of its own. Considering the average e-book reader is probably more interested in the device than the format, Google may lose out here to Kindle lovers.
Without an e-reader to sell, it remains to be seen whether what Google is offering is enough to attract many users. While Google is often perceived to be the master of all things, at the moment there doesn't seem to be very much that would sway readers to go with this service over an existing competitor's.
— Nicole Ferraro , Site Editor, Internet Evolution