Google Editions Allies with ABA in Ebook War vs. Amazon, Apple

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-06-30

Google Editions, the search engine's effort to follow the trail blazed by Amazon's Kindle in the market for electronic books, is rolling out this summer with the American Booksellers Association (ABA) as a key partner.

With Google as an ally, the ABA plans to make Google Editions the main source of ebooks on the Websites of hundreds of independent booksellers around the country, according to the New York Times. The deal was originally announced last month, according to Publishers Weekly.

Google Editions will make some 400,000 books available online to readers through any Web browser and Web-enabled device, including laptops, tablet computers and smartphones.

Readers will use their Google accounts to purchase the books directly from Google, whose Google Checkout system will serve as the payment platform. Google will pay publishers 63 percent of revenues and keep 37 percent for itself where it sold ebooks 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.

The any Web browser, any device model is a departure from the proprietary format and device approaches favored by Amazon with its Kindle e-reader and Apple with its iBookstore for the iPad and iPhone. Those devices tether digital books offered on them with digital rights management software.

Tom Turvey, who leads Google Editions as a director for strategic partnerships, told The New York Times, "I don't think anyone who has bought an e-reader in the last several years has really intended to only buy their digital books from one provider for life."

It is fitting that Google is trucking with the ABA. The 1,400 or so independent booksellers in the group have scrambled for survival against book-selling kings like Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Indie booksellers seem to trust Google in a market where Amazon and Barnes & Noble are aggressively slashing prices to make sure consumers purchase their devices to read books.

Barnes & Noble June 21 cut the cost of its Nook e-reader from $259 to $199. Not to be outdone, that day pared the price of its original Kindle e-reader from $259 to $189.

Meanwhile, Google has scanned more than 12 million books as part of a separate Google Book Search initiative that is in legal limbo.

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