Google eBooks Burned by Samsung Nexus S, but Solid

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-12-23 Print this article Print

I knew Google eBooks was coming a week before the search engine launched the service months after its original summer target date.

I was excited to cover it and see what Google had to offer as an alternative to Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad.

There are 3 million free and paid titles, all accessible through the computer Web browser, e-readers, Apple iOS devices and Google Android smartphones and tablets.

But Google committed a major faux pas by announcing its Samsung Nexus S smartphone the same day, rendering the eBooks announcement almost moot mute.

Seriously, as a journalist covering Google daily, I wondered: what the hell were they thinking? You spend years preparing to crack the digital book market and then you overshadow it by unveiling the latest in more than 100 Android smartphones?

That just shows you the pecking order at Google: core search, Android (you could flip-flop those two) and then everything else.

I wrote this eBooks story and then this slideshow, and spent the last two weeks covering and/or reviewing not only the Nexus S but the Chrome OS-based Cr-48 notebook.

With those behind me, I return to eBooks, because I have time as the holiday approaches and because this caustic piece from the apparently itinerant author Jon Evans on TechCrunch prompted me.

Evans called eBooks a carbon copy of Amazon's new Kindle for the Web app, though he does note that it:

it does what it does well enough. You can buy books from Google and read them on your Android, iWhatever, e-reader, or the Web; authors and publishers can upload their own books, with or without DRM; and it's all been expertly implemented.

My thought is: what more do you want except maybe more titles? What do others think? It's unclear, though Google told me that despite the concurrent Nexus S launch:

Since launching Google eBooks a little more than two weeks ago, we've been really pleased with the response from users, publishers, authors and retail partners. We don't have any stats to share at this time but we'll let you know if/when we do.

Time to see for myself what the buzz, or lack thereof, was about. I tested the Web reader in eBooks today and sampled "Alice in Wonderland," one of Google's more than 2,000 public domain works, right from my work laptop.

Pages look crisp and clean, not unlike the real pages, only virtual. That's because they've been scanned. See the search, font and other controls to the right here.

Then I navigated to the Android App Web page in eBooks and sent a link to download the app to my Motorola Droid X. This took seconds and, again, the library choices and font was crisp and clean.

I spent 5 minutes reading a sample of Stephen King's "Full Dark, No Stars," and the app proved fine. It's actually easier to scroll through each page than to turn a real book page.

And it's free. Not the book, the Google Books apps I used to read it. The book, however, costs only $12.99. Not bad compared to the $30+ list price of most new works today.

Speaking of which, if I chose to buy the book -- I expect to get the hard copy for Christmas Saturday -- I could simply click on the Buy Now link and it takes me to Google Checkout where, if I have an account set up, I just click and buy. Easy as pie.

ebook full dark.png

If you have an Android or iPhone smartphone you basically don't need an e-reader, but if you need to go big, you can read content on an iPad or Galaxy Tab after downloading the app.

I don't mean to compare Google eBooks to Amazon, Apple or any other offerings. Frankly, I spend so much time on my smartphone and computer that the only other way for me to get away for sedentary entertainment includes real books and magazines.

I'd like to keep it that way. However, it's good to know that if I lose my book I can whip out my cell phone and download it or another title from Google's cloud in a pinch.

That's portability and freedom you can't put a price on. And that's Google's point with eBooks. |

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