Google Acquires eBook Technologies

Google has just acquired eBook Technologies, according to a notice that is currently appearing on the company’s homepage.

Google confirmed the acquisition, with a spokesperson giving us this statement:

“We are happy to welcome eBook Technologies’ team to Google. Together, we hope to deliver richer reading experiences on tablets, electronic readers and other portable devices.”

So what exactly is eBook Technologies? Details on the homepage are scant — the site just has a banner that says, “eBook Technologies supplies a family of intelligent reading devices and licenses technologies that enable automated publishing and control over content distribution.” Most links on the site, including the Product page, just redirect to this homepage. However, a little digging through Google’s Cache reveals more details.

Note that it’s unclear which of these technologies Google intends to use, but it could clearly take advantage of them to bolster its Google Books product, which recently launched its eBook store.

A device page makes references to hardware that the company developed, but it seems out of date, with one product making its debut in 2007. It seems more likely that Google is after the company for its distribution technology, which is outlined on a cached Products page:

The eBook Technologies, Inc. (“ETI”) platform consists of four parts: electronic reading devices (eBook devices) plus their associated UI firmware technology, the “Online Bookshelf”, an Internet-based content sales and delivery system (the eBookstore), and eBook content conversion / publication tools.

…(vague language about eBook readers in general)…

Device designs include intuitive controls for managing familiar reading functions including: turning pages, searching through texts, marking up text, and looking up definitions. These “paper book” functions are enhanced by technology: i.e. searching is instantaneous, text mark-ups can be “written” directly on the touch-sensitive screen, marked up text can be erased, and definitions are automatically indexed against a virtual dictionary. The ETI reading device family current includes two models. The ETI-1 has an 8.5” diagonal, full VGA color screen device, Compact Flash® memory, 56K modem and an Ethernet port. The ETI-2 has a half-VGA 5.5” grayscale screen with 8MB internal memory and SmartMedia® card extension, a 33.6K modem and a USB port.

The core underlying firmware used in ETI’s eBook device technology is available for license. It consists of the following components: an embedded operating system, a file system, networking infrastructure, a graphics subsystem and most importantly the intuitive ETI reading experience layer. Heavy use of a book metaphor avoids computer-centric interactions throughout the UI, reinforcing the immersive quality of reading and replicating it uncompromisingly within ETI reading devices.

A key feature of the eBook platform and, a breakthrough for both avid readers and professional customers, is the ability to purchase and/or access reading materials anywhere and at any time. Instantaneous access to content is enabled through a built-in modem, USB, or Ethernet connection on the eBook device. Once connected to the ETI eBook Network via the Internet, customers can browse, select, access and optionally purchase eBook content from an eBookstore. In consumer deployments customers can also retrieve any recently or previously purchased content from their own personal “Online Bookshelf”. Content retrieved from the “Online Bookshelf” is downloaded to the ETI device which can then be read off-line. Content is delivered in a secure format that can only be decrypted by the specified ETI eBook device. Any proprietary user information, such as credit card and contact information, is securely maintained by the eBook Network.

The ETI eBook Express Manager provides enterprise customers with the core elements of the eBook Network that enable an enterprise to centrally manage the delivery, access, and updating of enterprise content to individual or groups of eBook users. Individual eBook devices can be centrally administered and all content transfers and updates are easily audited.

ETI eBookstore

The eBookstore is a sophisticated ecommerce system for the marketing, sale, and distribution of digital content to eBook customers. With relationships with over two dozen major publishers, the eBookstore is considered one of the leading providers of national bestsellers, popular periodicals, and major newspapers. Also, the eBookstore allows customers to browse, select, and purchase content either directly through an eBook device, a web browser from an Internet-connected PC, an offline Catalog, or through an alternate web e-tailer.

For more detailed information on ETI Network Services and the ETI eBookstore click here.

Content Conversion and Publication Tools

The ETI eBook format is based on an industry standard XML-based markup format (the Open eBook Standard) that ETI founders helped to pioneer. This format is the source format used by most ebook reading systems (for example, Microsoft, Palm and MobiPocket).

ETI offers a content creation and preview tool, to convert existing content and documents into the ETI eBook format. The software runs on Windows and Macintosh desktop systems and is capable of processing text, generic Open eBook texts and Microsoft Word files into device-specific ETI eBook titles. Automated scripts allow for daily, weekly or monthly download to ETI eBook devices as soon as the data is available from the content purveyor.

A server-side component of the ETI publishing tool, provides pagination, compression and encryption functions.

Here’s the note about the acquisition on the homepage:

eBook Technologies, Inc. is excited to announce that we have been acquired by Google. Working together with Google will further our commitment to providing a first-class reading experience on emerging tablets, e-readers and other portable devices.