Google to Challenge Amazon, Enter eBook Business

 
 
By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2009-06-01
 
 
 

Google plans to sell eBooks through its sites by the end of 2009, the company announced at the annual BookExpo convention in New York.

By opening eBooks to be sold and then ported onto a variety of electronic devices, Google puts itself in competition with Amazon.com, which has dominated the news with its line of Kindle devices, and companies such as Sony, also in the eReader game.

According to The New York Times report, Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships at Google, indicated that Google would let publishers set prices, and likely allow them to charge the same for digital editions as paper-based versions. The eBooks would be available to any device with Internet access.

"We've consistently maintained that we're committed to helping our partners find more ways to make their books accessible and available for purchase," Google said in a June 1 statement. "We want to build and support a digital book ecosystem to allow our partner publishers to make their books available for purchase from any web-enabled device."

Furthermore, Google seems determined to have its eBook infrastructure up and running by the end of the year. According to a June 1 report in The New York Times, Turvey told those assembled for the BookExpo presentation: "This time we mean it."

In March 2009, soon after Amazon.com rolled out the Kindle 2, Sony and Google jointly announced that Google's public-domain e-books would henceforth be available through the Sony's line of eReader devices, creating a library of 600,000 volumes. At the time, Amazon's library stood at around 245,000 eBooks. Sony also lowered the price of its PRS-700 Reader to $350, a price point similar to that of the Kindle 2 at $359.

While Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos has very publicly refused to announce sales figures for the Kindle line, Doug Anmuth of Barclays Capital estimated that the device would rack up $1.2 billion in sales in 2010 and $3.7 billion in 2012, or roughly 10 percent of Amazon.com's total sales and profits.

Bezos has said previously that Kindle-related sales brought in 35 percent of the company's book-related revenue.

Analysts have been noting the increasing crowdedness of the eReader market, with many incoming companies attempting to knock Amazon.com from its perch. 

"Competitors will attack Amazon's market position by launching new features, expanding content beyond books, dominating markets outside the U.S., reducing costs, and improving relationships with publishers," Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester, wrote in a May 27 research report.

"While frequent book readers drive device and content sales today, the next five years will see an explosion of the eReader textbook market," Epps added in the report, "and in 10 years, the market will be driven by businesses going green in government, education, health and other sectors." 

Epps cites consumers embracing mobile media and eCommerce, as well as devices with an improved convenience factor, as the reasons why eReaders are gaining greater traction with the public at large. In the report, she refers to Amazon.com's Kindle as a "killer app" with regard to eReaders.

However, the eReader playing field is seeing a rush of new players, as Sony, FirstPaper, Plastic Logic, Apple, Google and potentially newspaper publishers try to seize their own corners of the market.

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