Google Editions

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2010-08-14 Print this article Print


Google Editions

For months, the rumor-mill suggested that Google would debut its own e-book service to blunt Amazon's influence in the market. Termed Google Editions, said service was supposed to launch sometime this summer, in conjunction with partners such as the American Booksellers Association (ABA).

According to the plan, Google Editions would make some 400,000 e-books available to Web-enabled devices such as laptops, tablet PCs, and smartphones. Those volumes would be purchasable directly from Google, via the Google Checkout system. And whereas Amazon and its current rivals offer e-books in a proprietary format, the search engine giant's own e-bookstore would theoretically offer more freedom over where and how its e-books could be read.

"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," Tom Turvey, Google Editions' director for strategic partnerships, told The New York Times.

But the longer Google waits to roll out Google Editions (and the longer it neglects to provide details about how the service will work, in order to build the all-important buzz), the harder will be its eventual battle against Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple, all of which have been moving aggressively to draw readers to their respective platforms. In that context, Google's chances of breaking off a substantial portion of the e-book market appear dimmer and dimmer by the week.

Sony E-Readers

On Aug. 11, the tech blog Slashgear posted a story about Sony "apparently looking to Android for its future e-reader plans," based on a job posting in its Digital Reader Business Division.

The cached version of that job posting, "Senior Staff Software Engineer (Android)-Digital Reader Business Division" can be found here. Responsibilities, apparently, include "developing application software for digital reading and other consumer electronic devices."

It's no secret that Sony has fallen behind in the e-reader wars, especially when it comes to mindshare. In July, Sony mirrored its rivals' price-cuts, dropping the cost of the Sony Reader Pocket Edition to $149, the new Daily Edition to $299, and the Touch Edition to $169. On top of that, Sony recently shined up the design of its Reader Store for e-books.

But if Sony plans to use Android as the operating system for its future e-readers, it could be tacit acknowledgment that none of its previous steps have been enough; through Android, Sony could conceivably add software features equivalent to those of the ever-more-advanced Kindle and Nook.

That would place Sony smack in the middle of what's become an extraordinarily competitive space, locking jaws with not only Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple, but also with the upcoming Android-based tablet PCs. If Sony were willing to spend millions of dollars to aggressively assert itself in that position, it could translate into a market-share advantage-but Sony seems reluctant to grow fangs in that regard, with anemic e-reader marketing and a follower's mentality when it comes to pricing and features.

Unlike smaller e-reader manufacturers, though, Sony has millions of dollars to sustain its presence in a product category. That could ensure its placement as an e-reader also-ran-but leaping outright into the fray against its stronger competitors, without the corporate will or marketing push, could result in a costly mess. 

Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel