Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Here Comes Google Editions

Sorry for the delay in posting. The high winds knocked out my electricity for more than twelve hours, creating a cascade of other problems.

When we left off on Monday, I was revving up to talk about Google Editions, announced last Tuesday in Manhattan by Chris Palma, Google's manager for strategic partner development. Google Editions is due to go live in late June or July of this year.

For a couple of reasons, Google Editions has the capacity to be a game-breaker (or game-maker) for the publishing industry. First of all, Google has been digitizing books for a long time. The New Yorker article I referenced on Monday indicated Google has accumulated 12 million digitized titles. While they obviously cannot sell books without the rights-holder's permission, those 12 million titles include an enormous storehouse of public domain books which would be immediately available for download.

Monday's Japan Today reported here:
If books with expired copyright are included, Google will handle over 4 million books, including about 2 million handled by the publishers that have agreed to join what is set to be the world’s largest virtual bookstore.
Compare those 4 million titles with USA Today's estimates of Apple's 60,000 titles available through the iBookstore or Amazon's 450,000 titles available through the Kindle store. SlashGear reported here that Barnes & Noble's Nook has "somewhere over one million titles."

The second reason Google has the capacity to be a game-breaker is because Google Editions will operate on a browser-based
e-book platform. This means--unlike Apple, Amazon or B&N's proprietary devices--Google Editions can be read on any device AND can be purchased from any seller. Users not only have a wider selection of titles, they are no longer tied to a specific device and/or its pricing policy.

When we talk about pricing policy, I'll admit to some curiosity. There seems to be a discrepancy between The New Yorker's story dated April 26 and the The Wall Street Journal's article on Chris Palma's announcement last Tuesday.

The New Yorker story here quoted Dr. Daniel J. Clancy who will be running Google Editions. Clancy's PhD is in artificial intelligence. Most recently, he has been the Engineering Director for the Google Book Search Project. Clancy told The New Yorker that "Google Editions will let publishers set the price of their books ... and will accept the agency model."

On the other hand, Chris Palma told The Wall Street Journal here that "Google is still deciding whether it will follow the model where publishers set the retail price or whether Google sets the price."

Last October in Frankfurt, Google spokesperson Amanda Edmonds talked about the various business models Google Editions would offer. The Bookseller reported here:
Google Editions has three business models: to allow the consumer to buy the e-book via Google Books; to buy it from a partner retailer; or from a publisher's own website. Payment will be split 63/37 in the publisher's favour through the first route, while if the book is bought from a retailer, the publisher will take 45%, with the remaining 55% split between retailer and Google ... no split had been decided on for books bought via a publisher's site.
I'm going to quit for now. I'll return to this later.

1 comment:

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