Google Editions, the search giant's e-bookstore launching this summer, will directly compete with, and may even trump, its e-book competitors: Amazon's Kindle; Barnes and Noble's Nook; Sony's eBook reader; and Apple's digital devices.
Determining its launch date: according to the New York Times, the Google Books team is close to a deal with the American Booksellers Association, which represents more than 1,400 independent bookstores.
The deal would make Google Editions the primary e-book source for ABA members, putting independent booksellers in the e-book game.
It's a significant development in Google's rocky history with the book publishing industry, which resulted in a landmark settlement over copyright concerns.
Last fall, Google also partnered with On Demand Books' Espresso Book Machine to give independent booksellers the option to print books on demand.
Now, Google Editions will enable anyone with a Google account to download and read books via a Web browser on any device that can web surf, no special apps or interfaces needed. Independent bookstores will benefit the most, as their titles will now be accessible by search and not dependent on branded e-reader devices.
The seemingly unstoppable Google does face a few barriers to entry in the e-books business: a minimal retail acumen; its proprietary online payment system, Google Checkout, isn't widely deployed and offers a significantly smaller array of credit cards than Apple and Amazon.
On the plus side, Google Editions is being touted as a more “open” option.
“I don’t think anyone who has bought an e-reader in the last several years has really intended to only buy their digital books from one provider for life,” commented Google’s director of strategic partnerships, Tom Turvey.
The partnership with the ABA will let independent retailers and others to sell e-books on their own sites as well as on Google which already has two million books inventoried on their servers.
"This levels the retail playing field…and as a publisher, what I like is that I won't have to think about audiences based on devices. This is an electronic product that consumers can get anywhere as long as they have a Google account," said Evan Schnittman, VP global business development for Oxford University Press.
Who sets the retail price is not yet determined, but usual procedure is the companies keep a small percentage of each sale -- in the single digits.
Google Editions is the latest move in the search giant’s increasing digital media sales presence, and its inherent advantage is the scores of users searching for book titles who will impulsively click on the first option that appears.
Google Editions aims to make the burgeoning e-book market device-agnostic. The bigger question: will consumers follow?