The ebook market is becoming an increasingly crowded space. At first, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble were vying for customer dollars. But after Apple broke into the market with its iBooks service for the iPad, all that changed.
Now, publishers are able to send their books to be sold on several different electronic platforms and (hopefully) turn a profit in a space they originally feared. But there is another competitor making its way to the market-Google. Although the company doesn’t plan to release its service until the summer, already Apple, Amazon.com and the others are looking over their shoulders wondering what the search giant has planned.
They should. Google has a tendency to enter markets, find the right place to promote a service and win out. If it doesn’t win out, it typically performs well enough to succeed. That’s precisely why its ebook move is so compelling. As much as Amazon.com and Apple would like to say that they own the space, it’s very much up for grabs.
So far, the mainstream public hasn’t moved to it in droves, still opting for hardcovers over electronic versions of a book. But as people become more aware of ebooks, they will be looking for the best solution out there. Right now, that might be Amazon.com’s Kindle or Apple’s iPad. In a few months, it could be Google’s service, Google Editions.
Simply put, Google is well on its way to winning the ebook market. Here’s why:
1. The mainstream trusts Google
The biggest challenge for any company in the ebook market right now is trying to get mainstream consumers to buy titles. That might not be as difficult as it was before the Kindle was released, but it’s still tough. Google has the ability to draw the mainstream in a way that the rest of the competition in the space simply doesn’t. Apple is convincing mainstream consumers to look at tablets. However, it’s debatable whether iBooks will really turn out to be the killer app so many say it is. Google is trusted by the mainstream and its success to this point reflects that.
2. Ubiquity is everything
Amazon.com’s decision to offer the Kindle ebook store to iPhone and iPad users was a smart one. But it didn’t go far enough. Google plans to make Editions available in as many places as possible. Users will be able to buy ebooks online from a slew of retailers, including independent book stores. Google also hopes to make Editions available to mobile-device users accessing books from their browsers. Google has realized that the more places it can make books available, the more likely it is that users will buy them. It doesn’t need to have one place that’s bigger than Apple’s store or Amazon.com’s store. It just needs to have several places that combine to beat those stores.
3. It’s not relying on a device
A major roadblock for most of Google’s competitors in the ebook market is that they primarily rely on their own mobile devices to sell books. Currently, the Kindle is the go-to place for Amazon.com’s books. Barnes & Noble’s content is accessed mostly from its Nook e-reader. Apple’s iBooks application is available to iPad customers. Google is different. The company isn’t relying on a single e-reader to generate the bulk of its revenue. It realizes that relying so heavily on a single device will hold it back. And it plans to offer its books on as many products as possible. That’s a smart move.
4. The publishers are warming to Google
Google has had some trouble in the past with book publishers that were concerned about its decision to put the full text of books online. But now that they realize the profit potential of ebooks, publishers are starting to warm to the search giant. For now, the company hasn’t announced any partnerships with publishers, so it’s tough to say exactly how many books will be available on its service. But given the success of the Kindle and iBooks, it wouldn’t surprise me to see every major publisher and several smaller ones inking deals with Google. For them, it’s just sound business.
Google Editions Means Profit for Book Publishers
5. Retailers and publishers are getting the bulk of the profit
The main reason why I’m so optimistic about Google’s chances of attracting publishers has everything to do with its profit-sharing plan. Google intends to share the majority of its profit with partners to help it roll out its service in as many places as possible. It’s another smart move. Although publishers are making strong profits on their deals with Apple and Amazon.com, they’ll naturally migrate to the ebook platform that will deliver the best return. If Google Editions is as successful as many believe it will be and continues to share the bulk of its revenue with publishers and retailers, it could put its competitors in a dangerous position.
6. The iPad isn’t dominant
Let’s not forget that although the iPad delivers a fine reading experience, it’s not the dominant player in the ebook market. For now, the ebook space is a niche that few in the mainstream have fully embraced. Over the next few years, that will likely change as more people find value in reading ebooks. But until that happens, the market is up for grabs. And Google couldn’t be happier about it. When Apple controls a market, few companies have been able to even come close to matching it. In a few years’ time, without Google’s intervention, Apple would have likely dominated ebooks. But Google is getting in at the right time with the right service, which should only help its chances of taking on Apple.
7. The Kindle isn’t dominant
The Kindle is undoubtedly the most successful e-reader right now. A slew of ebooks are available that users can download quickly for the device. All in all, it’s a great product. But it’s not completely dominating the ebook market, either. As much as Amazon.com wants everyone to believe that it has the right strategy to take on any competitors, the Kindle is slipping as the iPad continues its strong sales. Once Google gets into the market, it may only be a matter of time before Amazon.com has to drastically change its strategy just to stay relevant.
8. Google’s other services will help
Part of Google’s ebook strategy is to make its books available to users on the Web. That’s an important distinction. Google has done a brilliant job through the years of using its other Web services to drum up support for its new offerings. Who would have thought that Google Docs would have been such a success, given Microsoft Office’s dominance? What about Gmail? Google knows how to attract customers to its new services. Google Editions will be no different.
9. It will be coming to other platforms
Google isn’t dumb. It realizes that for most users, having a handy e-reader, like the iPad or the Kindle, is the ideal way to read ebooks. Realizing that, the company plans to bring its library of titles to multiple devices to give users the option of buying a book from Google, rather than, say, Apple. That could be the company’s Trojan horse entry into the ebook market. Google has a way of delivering solid, usable software that appeals to users. Plus, if it decides to set its own prices, it can deliver content at a more affordable rate than the competition. If any company can afford to undercut competitor pricing, it’s Google.
10. Google has strong business sense
Google’s understanding of student needs is unparalleled. Take, for example, its decision to make digital editions of major universities’ entire libraries of books available online. That functionality will almost surely make its way to Editions. When it does, college students from around the globe will be able to access any title in a major university’s library to help them with their research, rather than walk over to their own college’s facilities. Try to find that coming from any of Google’s competition. With the right strategy, Editions could be the college student’s favorite companion.
11. Google has strong business sense
Google understands what it takes to be a success. It evaluates markets, determines what’s missing and sets out to slowly, but surely, do what it must to dominate. The company’s decision to offer Editions didn’t simply come out of Apple’s iPad success; it was born years ago when the company started scanning works for its Google Books service. Google knows what needs to be done in the ebook market to be successful and it’s setting out to do that.
Watch out, Amazon.com.