If a recent Wall Street Journal report is to be believed, Google is putting the finishing touches on Google Editions, a service that will allow customers to buy and read e-books online or on whatever e-reader they choose. Google had been shooting for a Google Editions launch this past summer, but it ran into “technical and legal hurdles” which it has reportedly since cleared. Now, per the report, Editions will launch in the US by the end of 2010 and internationally in the first quarter of 2011.
Google Editions hopes to upend the existing e-book market by offering an open, “read anywhere” model that is different from many competitors. Users will be able to buy books directly from Google or from multiple online retailers—including independent bookstores—and add them to an online library tied to a Google account. They will be able to access their Google accounts on most devices with a Web browser, including personal computers, smartphones and tablets.
That’s a different approach from Amazon.com Inc., which is estimated to have as much as 65% of the market. Users of its proprietary Kindle device can purchase books only from an Amazon store, although they can read them on dozens of different devices that run Kindle software and can access free books from other sources.
One of the most common complaints about the e-book landscape in its current incarnation is that most book sales are so closely tied to sister devices — Amazon books to the Kindle, B&N books to the Nook, Borders books to the Kobo, and so on, with clunky porting and in some cases reduced functionality when attempting to read outside books in addition to restrictive DRM. Against that backdrop, an e-book store that sold easily portable books could have a lot of appeal, although it waits to be seen whether Google’s execution will be a success.