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