Google opens its eBooks store in US

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - BOOKS -

SAN FRAN­CISCO: Google is mak­ing the leap from dig­i­tal li­brar­ian to mer­chant in a chal­lenge to Ama­zon.com and its Kin­dle elec­tronic reader.

The long-awaited in­ter­net book store, which opened this week in the US, draws on a por­tion of the 15 mil­lion printed books that Google has scanned into its com­put­ers dur­ing the past six years.

About 4 000 pub­lish­ers, in­clud­ing Simon & Schus­ter, Ran­dom House and Pen­guin, are also al­low­ing Google to carry many of their re­cently re­leased books in the new store.

Those pub­lish­ing deals will en­sure that most of the cur­rent best-sell­ers are among the three mil­lion e-books ini­tially avail­able in Google’s store. Mil­lions more out-of-print ti­tles will ap­pear in Google’s store, called eBooks, if the com­pany can gain court ap­proval of a pro­posed class-ac­tion set­tle­ment with US pub­lish­ers and au­thors.

The $125 mil­lion (R861m) set­tle­ment has been un­der re­view for more than two years. It faces stiff op­po­si­tion from ri­vals, con­sumer watchdogs, aca­demics, lit­er­ary agents and even for­eign gov­ern­ments, which worry that Google will get too much power to con­trol prices in the still-nascent mar­ket for elec­tronic books.

Ama­zon.com, which started out as a seller of books over the in­ter­net, is among those try­ing to squelch the set­tle­ment. The US Jus­tice Depart­ment has ad­vised the judge over­see­ing the case the set­tle­ment prob­a­bly would vi­o­late an­titrust and copy­right laws.

Books bought from Google’s store can be read on any ma­chine with a web browser. There are also free ap­pli­ca­tions that can be in­stalled on Ap­ple’s iPad and iPhone, as well as other de­vices pow­ered by Google’s own mo­bile op­er­at­ing sys­tem, An­droid. But eBooks can’t be loaded on to the Kin­dle.

Elec­tronic books are ex­pected to gen­er­ate nearly $1 bil­lion in US sales this year and climb to $1.7bn by 2012, as more peo­ple buy elec­tronic read­ers and com­puter tablets, ac­cord­ing to For­rester Re­search. The re­search group ex­pects 15 mil­lion e-read­ers and tablets to have been sold in the US by the end of the year.

Google be­lieves it’s al­ready of­fer­ing the broad­est se­lec­tion of dig­i­tal ti­tles in the world, and it plans to keep adding to the in­ven­tory if it can gain the nec­es­sary copy­right clear­ances. The com­pany be­lieves it even­tu­ally will be able to make elec­tronic copies of the es­ti­mated 130 mil­lion books in the world. It’s also plan­ning to start sell­ing books out­side the US next year.

The com­pany is try­ing to po­si­tion its new sales out­let as an ally to pub­lish­ers, mer­chants and con­sumers look­ing for al­ter­na­tives to Ama­zon’s elec­tronic book store, which feeds Ama­zon’s Kin­dle, but not other e-read­ers.

The grow­ing em­brace of dig­i­tal sales by the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try is ex­pected to re­sult in the clo­sure of book stores, adding to a me­dia mor­tu­ary of mu­sic and video mer­chants killed by elec­tronic dis­tri­bu­tion. – Sapa-AP

PIC­TURE: AP

new page: The long-awaited Google in­ter­net book store opened in the US this week.

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