Google will launch it overdue online bookstore in December to grab a piece of the digital reading pie from Amazon, Apple and others, the Wall Street Journal said Nov. 30.
A source familiar with Google's plans said the electronic bookstore would launch this month. The spokesperson declined to say what the service will be called and when exactly it will launch.
Google Product Management Director Scott Dougall told the Journal the e-book service will launch in the United States by the end of the year and internationally in the first quarter of next year.
Shrouded in mystery is how many independent bookstores and retailer partners are participating in the service.
Google has partnered with the ABA (American Booksellers Association), which plans to make Google's service the main source of e-books on the Websites of hundreds of independent booksellers around the country.
The Journal said Google has signed deals with many major book publishers and will offer hundreds of thousands of titles for purchase and millions of books for free.
To that end, Google will offer most of the titles that currently are available in other e-bookstores at launch or shortly after with prices similar to those at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, Google told the publication.
Amazon commands the lion's share of the market and offers 750,000 books and magazines, but Apple's iBookstore is gaining.
ChangeWave Research polled 2,800 consumers and found the iPad's share of the e-reader market had expanded from 16 percent to 32 percent between August and November, while the Kindle's dipped from 62 percent to 47 percent.
Google needs an offering that will make prospective e-book readers seriously consider its service over Amazon and the rest of the pack.
Having lots of titles won't be the only key selling point for Google's e-book venture.
While Amazon tethers e-books to its Kindle e-reader, Apple to its iPad and iPhone, and Barnes & Noble to its Nook e-reader, Google will allow consumers to access books from retail partners on devices with full Web browsers, including computers, tablets and smartphones.
Google users will buy books online using Google's Checkout system and add them to an online library matched to a Google account.
Also unclear how much revenue Google will split with its raft of independent bookstores and other retailer partners.
It is believed Google will pay publishers 63 percent of revenues and keep 37 percent for itself where it sold e-books directly to consumers.
The search engine will also let independent bookstores in the ABA and others sell their ebooks on their own sites using Editions. In this wholesale model, publishers would get 45 percent, with most of the remaining 55 percent going to the retailer. Google would take a small revenue cut.
Google had hoped to launch its e-books service in the summer, but was delayed by legal and technical hurdles, according to the Journal.