Google Editions Bookstore to Face Stiff Challenge from Amazon, Perhaps Apple

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-10-17

If Google thinks it's going to waltz in and disrupt the electronic book foundation Amazon has laid with its Kindle device, it's got to do more than just claim it wants to offer electronic books through a Web browser.

Oh, and it may have to contend with Apple if it launches that oft-rumored tablet in 2010. But first, the background on Google's e-book efforts.

Google Oct. 15 said its Google Editions online bookstore in 2010 will sell 500,000 electronic books to any device with a Web browser, including PCs, laptops and smartphones.

Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps told Reuters Google would not necessarily steal market share from Amazon because, while Google Editions will compete with Amazon, the word "e-reader" is synonymous with the Kindle for many consumers.

However, Gartner analyst Allen Weiner said Google Editions poses way too many unanswered questions, from Google's lack of experience selling media to the effectiveness of offering e-books through Web browsers.

While this approach could set Google up nicely for selling e-books to users of desktops, netbooks and smartphones, it won't help in the case of fixed devices that don't include browsers. For example, the  new International version of the Kindle does not include a Web browser.

"The browser is not standard issue with every e-book reader," Weiner said, calling the browser in his Kindle a "non-starter." "If Google does [offer books through browsers], it will certainly not be standard issue. Offering a book through a browser is great in theory, but there needs to be an ecosystem behind it."

Weiner also left open the door for the possibility that Apple could roll into the e-book scrum. The company is reportedly preparing to launch a tablet device in 2010. If Apple's track record is any indication, the tablet would have a superior browser to those that exist on today's e-readers.  

Weiner said Apple, as the king of consumer devices, could sells books via the iTunes store, providing an instantly formidable force in the e-book market with which Amazon and Google must contend. Moreover, Apple could exclude a browser, similar to the way it does on the iPod Touch, effectively freezing Google out of placement on the tablet.

"Not even Google, with all of its superpowers, can compete with the iTunes/iPod/iPhone culture," said Weiner, adding that publishers he's spoken to loathe doing business with Google.

If Apple did join the e-book battle, it would provide yet another front on which Google and Apple would compete. Apple and Google already compete in smartphones and mobile applications, and will compete in operating systems with the release of the Google Chrome Operating System in 2010.

process of being revised , they will be able to do that through Editions as well. 



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