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Google Set to Launch Digital Bookstore

12 May 2010

Google Editions will offer digital books for sale through its website in late June or July, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The move will open up a new distribution channel for digital publishers and give Amazon and Apple a new competitor in the emerging digital-book market.


Google announced plans last year to offer public-domain books for free in the epub format. A Google representative confirmed that the company plans to launch Google Editions mid year, but declined to be more specific on the timing.


One key difference between Google's approach to digital-book sales and the approaches used by Amazon and Apple is that Google customers will not be able to download books sold through the store: they'll be accessible exclusively through a web browser. That has some advantages for Google, in that it side-steps messy DRM (digital rights management) questions and allows it to offer the service for any device, rather than having to negotiate deals.


However, it also means Google will have to create a mobile version of Google Editions that can support offline reading. It may also change the pricing, given that customers wouldn't actually have their own copy of the books they purchase. Google's Dan Clancy told The New Yorker in April that it would let publishers set the prices for their books.


Currently Google is only authorised to sell books for which it has negotiated distribution rights with publishers and public-domain works. If its sweeping settlement with books author and publishing groups is approved, Google will also gain the controversial right to sell out-of-print yet copyright-protected books, sharing that revenue with the rights holders.


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