Google has always been a major contender in the eBook format battle, but until now, it hasn't contributed its wealth of digitized public domain books to a specific side of the battle. Now Google has definitely taken a side, and it's versus Amazon.
Right after Sony's announcement that its new collection of eReaders would support the ePub format, Google announced it would be distributing millions of its public domain eBooks as ePub downloads. ePub is a format of digitized books rendered to read beautifully on smaller screens, like the iPhone, and, ahem, Sony's new products. Amazon's Kindle does not natively support ePub.
Though ePub is not necessarily without DRM, Google's offerings will have no restrictions. One of the biggest drives towards ePub is that it is not locked to a specific device, so unlike those Kindle books you'd love to swap with friends, ePub-formatted books are easily distributed. This philosophy goes well with Sony's pairing with libraries to establish a "loaning system" wherein customers can check out books for their Sony Readers from the New York City Public Library (with inevitably more libraries to come) for 21 days.
It also means that it's possible for just about anyone to distribute and sell ePub-rendered books. Barnes and Noble has already created its own store just for ePub books, and with Sony's new line of sleek devices, others should be expected to follow suit.
Google's sly slip into formatting comes just days after Amazon announced it would join ranks with the Open Book Alliance -- along with Microsoft and Yahoo -- to contend the Google Book settlement. The Open Book Alliance has a beef with Google's possible infringement of copyrights, but because today's offerings are all public domain, and readily available on the Web, Google is exempt from a wrist-slapping.
Now I'll be waiting for Google to produce its own eBook reader device, something that would surely escalate the format battle into an all-out war.