While the Google Books settlement meanders on in one courtroom after another, Google also announced this week that they will be opening an e-book store of their own in 2010. Google Editions will compete with Amazon’s Kindle store and Barnes & Noble’s e-book offerings. That puts the big three all in play — all that’s left now is for Apple to get in the game.
Amazon has ridiculous amounts of selection and they have the PR — every time you buy something at Amazon these days, whether it’s the new bestseller or salad tongs, you are told you could have bought the Kindle version. Barnes & Noble is trying to catch up with this game, including their own e-reader (to be announced possibly as early as next week). Now Google Editions, like the Sony e-reader device, will be embracing universal format for its offerings. From PC World:
Google’s e-books will be accessible through any Web-enabled computer, e-reader, or mobile phone instead of a dedicated device. This will allow content to be unchained from expensive devices such as Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader.
I admit I like that aspect. If I’m going to own an e-book (and more on that in a second), I sure as heck want to be able to read it anywhere, my computer, my laptop, my iPhone. Right now my e-book usage is minimal (I haven’t paid for one yet, just downloaded some free stuff) but primarily I’ve been using Stanza, a free app for my iPhone. You can sync content from your computer to the app, supposedly — I’ve never gotten that to work. Far better, though, is the workaround I found out about — this site, Bookworm EPUB reader. It’s a free online storage site for your e-books (the ones that are in universal EPUB format) so that you can then access them anywhere, from any mobile device or computer. You can even choose to “open in Stanza”, and voila, that’s what I did. The other night I actually “curled up” with the iPhone and read a book that way and, I have to say, it wasn’t bad. Stanza has nice touch controls and ease of use, and I didn’t mind the small screen at all. Nice. I guess e-books are okay, and I can see myself reading more of them in the future. I’m also excited about the idea of being able to rent e-books from the library. Now that I could get on board with. If I borrow a book from the library, I’m not planning on owning it anyhow, so whether digital or paper copy, what difference does it make? But e-books replacing paper books in my life? Still kind of inconceivable.
However, as democratizing as this sounds, it’s still unclear how many people are ready to curl up with a Google Editions title on their laptop or smartphone, instead of the traditional paper format.
Yeah, that’s the rub.