Google Readies Its E-Book Plan, Bringing in a New Sales Approach JESSICA E. VASCELLARO And JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG
Google Inc. plans to begin selling digital books in late June or July, a company official said Tuesday, throwing the search giant into a battle that already involves Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc.
Google 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.
The company is hoping to distinguish Google Editions in the marketplace by allowing users to access books through a broad range of websites using an array of devices, unlike rivals that are focused on proprietary devices and software.
Chris Palma, Google’s manager for strategic-partner development, announced the timetable for Google’s plans on Tuesday at a publishing- industry panel in New York.
The company would have copies on its servers for works it strikes agreements to sell. Google is still deciding whether it will follow the model where publishers set the retail price or whether Google sets the price.
Google says users will be able to buy digital copies of books directly from its site. It will also allow book retailers—even independent shops—to partner with Google Editions on their own sites, sharing the revenue.
While Mr. Palma didn’t go into details, users of Google Editions would be able to read books from a web browser— meaning that the type of e-reader device wouldn’t matter. The company also could build software for certain devices like an iPhone or iPad.
By contrast, Amazon’s digital book business is largely focused on its Kindle e-reader and Kindle software that runs on some other hardware.
Publishers have yet to publicly commit to participate in the service but Google isn’t expected to run into much trouble getting them to join. Publishers tend to believe the more outlets to sell books the better. Even the smallest independent bookstore will have access to a sophisticated electronic-book sales service with a vast selection of titles.
“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.”
Google may struggle to build awareness about the service. It is hoping users click to buy books through its Book Search product, which has a relatively small following compared to its overall search service.
The online sales effort is separate from Google’s fight to win rights to distribute millions of out-of-print books through its digital book settlement with authors and publishers.
Tuesday’s panel was presented by Publishers Weekly and sponsored the Book Industry Study Group.