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.
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What I'm reading now on my Kindle: Nothing To Be Frightened Of by Juilan Barnes