Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Lion That Squeaked?

Look out, Amazon! Google is getting into the e-book market! Or as the New York Times puts it, Google is "throwing down the gauntlet."

Sayeth the Times,

In discussions with publishers at the annual BookExpo convention in New York over the weekend, Google signaled its intent to introduce a program by that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google.The move would pit Google against Amazon.com, which is seeking to control the e-book market with the versions it sells for its Kindle reading device.

Google boasts that unlike Amazon e-books which require the proprietary Kindle, their e-books will be accessible on multiple devices, including phones and PCs.

And publishers are giddy because Google plans to let them have more of a say about e-book prices, giving them more control over their commodities than Amazon does.

Anyone would be foolish to underestimate Google's impact on a market once they set their sights on it, but am I the only one who sees the flaws in their plan?

First, attacking the Kindle by making e-books available on multiple devices is a nice concept, but has Google considered that one of the keys to the Kindle's success is that people don't want to read to books on computer or cell phone screens? To paraphrase an old political attack, "It's the e-ink, stupid."

It bothers me not one bit that I can't read my Kindle e-books on other devices because I have no desire to.

Second, giving publishers more control over pricing will certainly bring plenty of them running to the table to do business with Google, but have they been paying attention to the virtual revolution that Kindle users have initiated over pricing? One of the biggest and most active threads in the official Kindle discussion forum is titled "Boycott anything over $9.99."

Publishers: "Hurray! We can raise the price of our e-books and increase our profits!"

Consumers: "Uh, yeah. About that..."

E-book adoption has been slow enough. Do the publishers think raising prices will help? Perhaps they think that multi-device access will make readers more willing to loosen their purse strings? Or are they just so scared of what Amazon means to the future of publishing that they're anxious to back any other contender?

Again, I wouldn't dare dismiss Google's venture into e-books -- or any market -- as folly. They'll undoubtedly make an impact. I'm just not sure they quite have their finger on the pulse of the consumer in this case.


Follow me on Twitter: @phigginbotham
What I'm reading now on my Kindle: Nothing To Be Frightened Of by Juilan Barnes


JimK said...

"I'm just not sure they quite have their finger on the pulse of the consumer in this case. "

In fairness, neither does Amazon. The Kindle has been a success despite Amazon's bets efforts to tank it and e-book sales. People REALLY want this to work, and Amazon's damn lucky some designer thought of Whispernet...I believe that is the only reason the Kindle ecosystem survives.

eire said...

"It's the e-ink, stupid."

Eggsactly. It's the e-ink and the low prices, and Google wants to offer us more non e-ink platforms and higher prices? I must be missing something. :-)

Jazz said...

Thank you, thank you! I love the idea of competition, but like you really don't get the drive to put books on a bunch of devices. The combination of an eReader plus my phone is perfect and all that I really need as I always have one or the other.
Who would really leave their book at home in favor of reading on their laptop/netbook?
What I would like to see is a settling of the format waters. If Google is smart, they'll offer books in as many formats as possible, including Kindle. If they want to sell to Kindle owners they should offer the ability to email to Kindles as an option--perhaps eating the $ .15-$ .30 fee.