Analysts believe Google's eBooks service could shake up the market Amazon and others have cultivated if Google chooses to create an ad-supported media cloud storefront where consumers procure TV, books and eventually music.
Google eBooks and the corresponding eBookstore launched Dec. 6 to let consumers search for and access more than 2 million public domain books for free, or purchase any of hundreds of thousands of titles from 4,000-plus publishers.
Out of the gate, that's more than 3 million paid and free titles to users via the search engine's cloud computing model, accessible via any computer and via apps created for Android and Apple smartphones and tablets.
Gartner analyst Allen Weiner said Google's eBooks model is a big deal because it creates a gateway to make the company the first true "media in the cloud" provider.
He envisions that, paired with Google TV's ability to let users consume Netflix and other Web apps from their TVs, Google has a powerful advertising platform to wield against Amazon, Apple and others eyeing Web-delivered media.
"Add in the purchase of Widevine (multiplatform DRM and content optimization platform) and you see the formation of two content services with the ability to share customer behavioral information, advertising targeting and a device agnostic distribution engine," Weiner said in a Dec. 6 blog post.
On the Google TV connection, he surmised that a book purchased by a consumer on the wine regions of France could trigger a related TV clip pushed to a user via Google TV, paired with targeted advertising.
"User behavior data collected and collated across Google's content services and Google's search engine creates a scary scenario of cross-media dominance," Weiner said.
"It can be profitable to sell a consumer a TV set or e-reader, but far more profitable to have that device owner come back and use your storefront as a content hub."
Curbing the enthusiasm somewhat, Google eBooks Product Management Director Scott Dougall told eWEEK Google has no plans to run ads with eBooks. Still, Weiner is not alone in believing the company has a powerful ad platform on its hands with eBooks.
Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey wrote in his own speculative blog post Dec. 6 that Google eBooks should be used to create an ad-supported publishing model.
In McQuivey's scenario, a user stumbles upon a new book recommended by Facebook friends. Instead of a limited free trial of a few chapters, Google could offer an ad-supported read of the book.
"As you read, the meter starts ticking and revenue accrues directly to the publisher and author. If you don't like the ads, you can buy the book at any time to remove them," he explained.
"But, even if you choose to read the whole thing without buying it, it's an easy thing for Google to figure out how many ads you have to see for it to generate enough revenue to replace the cost of buying the digital book."
These ads can be split with ad-supporting publishers via Google's AdWords model. Everybody wins.
Moreover, Google is expected to add a digital music service to its arsenal in 2011, providing a three-pronged media cloud attack of Google eBooks, Google TV and Google Music (hypothetical title).