Google says it will soon sell full-text versions of books online at the request of its book publishing partners.
As to when books can be purchased, Google said, "This is just a preliminary release to allow U.S. and U.K. publishers to set prices and to choose which books they want to include. This feature isnt yet available as an option for consumers."
Google has been hinting about its ambitions for several months, so the recent development comes as no surprise.
With the move, Google plans to begin competing against major publishing and book retailing interests also distributing their books online.
That list includes Amazon and publishers Harper Collins and Random House expect to make available entire books for download.
According to Google, the Internet search engine will soon let book publishers in the United States and United Kingdom choose which tomes offer, then split the revenues with Google.
The books cannot be downloaded onto a computer. Rather, each is only available online.
So far, publishers Taylor & Francis and Netherlands-based Brill were expected to be among those offering books for sale through Google Books.
"Its a way for publishers to experiment with a new method of earning money from their books in addition to those that already exist," Google writes of its motives.
"Think of it as a way to reach more users by offering a new version of your book with a different reading experience."
The Google Book Partner Program is the least controversial of Googles online book efforts.
Nearing 2 years old, it was designed to let book publishers better market their books by voluntarily offering snippets through the Google search engine.
By working with existing publisher partners, Google hopes to avoid the copyright controversy thats settled over Googles other book search effort, the one in which entire library collections worth of books are made available.
So far two lawsuits claim that Googles library project is a violation of copyrights. Its a charge Google vehemently denies.