Google offered some more details on its upcoming digital book store earlier today at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Google plans on selling downloadable electronic books called Google Editions to any device with a browser.
Today, Google Books gives you the option to buy books you find there from other online retailers. But Google Editions will come directly from Google’s own yet-to-be-launched store. It will make 400,000 to 600,000 books available through agreements with publishers, who will get a cut of each book sold (about 63 percent if it is sold directly through Google, 45 percent if it is sold through an affiliate retailer, which would split the rest with Google similar to the AdSense model).
No wonder Jeff Bezos is trying to block Google’s book settlement. Google wants to loosen his grip on the digital book industry through his Amazon-only Kindle. At the same time that it is fighting those efforts to curtail its book settlement and access to millions of orphan works, it is also making making its own thrusts into other areas.
Already, Google makes it possible to download or print over one million public domain books in a partnership with Sony. Those books are all available in the open ePub format. It would make sense if Google Editions were also available in ePub, but the plan to turn regular browsers into eReaders probably needs something else like Google Gears (which has offline capabilities) to make it work.
If Google can turn any browser into a digital book reader and it can offer as good a catalog as Amazon can on the Kindle, then that is one less reason to buy a Kindle. Whether or not Google will be offering all of the latest bestsellers or the types of tomes it highlights on its homepage today, such as Gangs and Delinquency in Developmental Perspective, will determine how much of a threat it becomes to Amazon. But if I had to choose between the Kindle or the browser ultimately winning this battle, I’d bet on the browser any day.