Google ready to break into book market

Google has confirmed it plans to launch an e-book store before the end of the year, challenging the likes of Amazon’s Kindle store. The Google project was originally planned to launch this summer but was held up by technical and legal problems.

The main selling point of the store, to be known as Google Editions, is that the books won’t necessarily be downloaded to a device, but will instead be accessed through a Google account. That means that once the book is purchased, it will be accessible from any internet-connected device. It’s not yet known if this will simply be in the form of specially formatted web pages, or if it will be possible to use custom-designed applications.

The system may mean Google has to put security measures in place, such as monitoring access to an account. In theory, it doesn’t sound as if there’d be anything to stop somebody setting up an account, buying a book, and then giving the account details to friends so that they can read it without paying (albeit, likely only one person at a time.)

It appears Google will negotiate royalty arrangements on a publisher-by-publisher basis, though the Google share of the sale price will always be less than 50%.

Third-party websites will be able to join one of two affiliate programs: one that links readers to the Google Editions site, and one where the third-party website sells the electronic book directly.

A Google spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that most books currently available in other e-book stores will be on Google Editions at or soon after its launch, and that prices will be similar to those of major rivals.

The project is different to Google Books, which is where Google itself scans books, makes them searchable, and (where publishers have agreed) sells electronic copies of titles still in copyright. That’s led to widespread legal challenges after publishers objected to copyrighted titles being scanned without permission.

Those challenges continued after author and publisher groups reached a settlement with Google that claims to give the company rights over orphan titles — those which are still in copyright but where the original rights-holders can’t be traced. Whether there’s any legal authority for Google to be “given” such rights is hotly disputed.

(Picture credit: Flickr user Carl Parkes/FriskoDude)

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