Monday, June 1, 2009

The Clash of the Titans is coming - Google plans to sell e-books, directly competing with Amazon

I'm back from BookExpo America (BEA) and this week will be dedicated to some of the stories and observations I have following this event.

One of the most interesting news from the BEA was actually released today by the New York Times - Google is getting ready to dive into the e-book market, currently dominated by Amazon.

Yes, we're talking about the Clash of the Titans - On one side of the ring, the current e-book champion, armed with its growing family of Kindles (Kindle 2.0 and Kindle DX). On the other side of the ring, Google, which has already made its 1.5 million public-domain books available for reading on mobile phones as well as the Sony Reader. This is going to be one hell of a battle!

Google is coming armed with two main advantages (besides being Google of course..). Firstly, according to Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships at Google, their program will allow readers to read books on any device with internet access, including mobile phones, rather than being limited to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle.

The second advantage is purely aimed at the publishers - Google would allow publishers to set retail prices, unlike Amazon that offers Kindle editions of most new best sellers for $9.99, which is far less than the typical $26 at which publishers sell new hardcovers. I just wonder if this is also an advantage for the readers who will probably be asked to pay more (and if so is it a competitive advantage at all?)

Unfortunately I wasn't present at Turvey's presentation at the BookExpo, but according to the NYT he said “This time we mean it" and the company is committed to going live with the project by the end of 2009.

So what does it mean? in one word: competition. Is it good for readers? definitely. Is it good for publishers? absolutely. Is it good for the environment? hopefully. If Google will work closely with Sony Reader as their main partner, it might drive both the Kindle and Sony Reader to improve their performance and hopefully it will mean also improvements in terms of footprint reduction.

Moreover, either Amazon or Google might decide to position themselves as a greener solution and will release a version that is clearly more eco-friendly than paper books (backed up with the life cycle assessment we're expecting for for so long).

In any case, this is an interesting move and we'll have to wait and see how it will influence the e-book market in general and its green side specifically.

Raz @ Eco-Libris

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