Good News or Bad News? Google To Sell eBooks By Summer
The Wall Street Journal reports that Google’s Chris Palma announced that the company is going to start selling digital books early this summer. The service will be called Google Editions and will go beyond the free public domain offerings of Google Books into current titles just as with Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
This announcement gives me mixed emotions, as I can think of two good reasons why Google as eBookseller would be awesome and two reasons why it could impinge on the whole “Don’t Be Evil” mantra.
Good news first:
Palma didn’t mention anything about Google building an eReader, and with this system they won’t need to. Having another device-agnostic eBook store is always a good thing. Evan Schnittman of Oxford University Press hit the nail on the head when he said that “as a publisher, what I like is that I won’t have to think about audiences based on devices.” Since the portability of ePub books between competing devices and stores is somewhat muddy, an independent store would provide clarity for book buyers. And Google has major clout as a company, which we can always hope they’ll use in favor of consumers.
I also hope that the Google Editions store will have tight Android integration. And if a miracle occurs and Google gives more love to tablets with its OS, we might live in a future where the tablet you use to read your eBooks isn’t an iPad. Heck, it may even have a screen designed for reading.
Bad news always follows:
Google is already in a legal quagmire with various author associations over their desire to control a large swath of out-of-print books now and in the future. The sweeping powers they tried to grab didn’t bode well with many, and aren’t a great indicator of how they’ll act with current authors and publishers.
That whole clout thing runs both ways. Given how tense things have been around eBooks, pricing, and companies throwing their weight around lately, I can’t help but imagine a future ala Demolition Man where the eBook Wars result in just one store left standing: Taco Bell Google.
What do you say, dear readers? Are you excited that Google is getting into the eBook business?