Google Editions: Bringing E-Books to Your Browser

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Google E-Book Store
Google wants to bring your digital book reader into the cloud.

The company has just announced plans to launch its own digital bookstore, a Web-based effort called Google Editions. The store will open sometime toward the middle of the year, a Google spokesperson confirmed to me, possibly as early as late June or July. And unlike many of the current e-book options on the market, Google Editions will let you buy and use its books wherever you want.

Google Editions: Google's Digital Bookstore

The news of Google Editions' impending debut comes from Chris Palma, Google's strategic partner development manager (try saying that three times fast). As first reported by The Wall Street Journal, Palma disclosed the Google Editions timetable during a talk at Random House's New York offices this week.

The session was called "The Book on Google: Is the Future of Publishing in the Cloud?" And that title speaks volumes about Google's plans to flip the digital book industry upside down.

Unlike its e-book-selling contemporaries -- Amazon, with its Kindle; Barnes and Noble, with its Nook; and Apple, with its iBooks -- Google Editions will allow you to download and read books using only your Web browser. That means any device that can surf the Web is fair game: your laptop, your computer, even your Kindle, Nook, or iPad. No separate apps or interfaces will be required.

Google E-Book Sales

Though Google isn't yet confirming the details, reports suggest the reading experience won't be the only thing that sets Google Editions apart; the purchasing experience may also be a completely different beast. According to The Journal, you'll be able to buy e-books directly through Google's service. You'll also, however, be able to buy them straight from the Web sites of retailers -- both big-name stores and small independent shops -- who will then keep the majority of the money earned.

"It's much more of an open ecosystem, where you find a way for bricks-and-mortar stores to participate in the future digital world of books," Google engineer Dan Clancy tells The New Yorker. "We're quite comfortable having a diverse range of physical retailers, whereas most of the other players would like to have a less competitive space, because they'd like to dominate."

That open nature may have its benefits: Clancy is cited as saying that Google Editions will offer a substantially greater selection than other e-book retailers. For publishers, it could also mean greater control over their products and how they're sold.

Google Editions: The Unknown

What isn't yet clear -- and what may play a large role in the ultimate success or failure of Google's e-book enterprise -- is how exactly the Google Editions user interface will work. Google's good at building Web-based applications, but whether its mobile e-reader site will be able to hold its own next to the feature-rich platform-specific alternatives is something we'll just have to wait to see.

All together, it's certainly shaping up to be a busy season for the Google gang (sorry, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz). If all the suspected timing turns out to be accurate, we'll see Google TV later this month and then the Google e-bookstore shortly thereafter. Heck, if we keep going at this rate, about the only place we won't see Google soon will be at grocery stores -- at least, until that Moo Goo Google dish I keep hearing about finally hits the freezer aisle.

JR Raphael is a PCWorld contributing editor and the co-founder of eSarcasm. He's on Facebook:

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