Ebooks have been called the cornerstone of a new literary economy, and blamed for the slow death of so-called “tree books.” But recent spats between publishers and Amazon over pricing, and Apple over content control, have made the ebook market seem slightly less rosy.
Now, Google could change the game (again) with the long-awaited launch of Google Editions, its “universal format” ebook store.
The Google Editions ebook sales platform will launch at the end of this month in the US, and in Q1 internationally, but there are still some unknowns. For example, it's not clear how many bookselling partners it has lined up, nor is it known what the rev-share with authors/publishers will be.
Still, there are a few reasons Google Editions has the potential to be a hit with both consumers and authors/publishers:
- No specific device means Google Editions for all
Google Editions hopes to upend the existing e-book market by offering an open, "read anywhere" model that is different from many competitors. Users will be able to buy books directly from Google or from multiple online retailers—including independent bookstores—and add them to an online library tied to a Google account. They will be able to access their Google accounts on most devices with a Web browser, including personal computers, smartphones and tablets.
Unlike e-books tied to Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPad, readers will be able to buy and read their e-books whether they have the shiniest, newest tablet, or a good “old-fashioned” laptop. This increases the potential audience for authors/publishers, adding readers to the mix that can’t afford to upgrade to the newest technology.
- Google’s self-serve model is scalable for indie retailers (and authors)
Think of AdWords, which lets marketers set up search campaigns in minutes, or AdSense, which lets publishers start earning revenue by plugging a few lines of code into their site. Google makes online advertising (and to an extent, ecommerce) simple and scalable – and it intends to do the same with ebooks.
Indie booksellers are already salivating at the chance to set up ebook shops at little-to-no cost:
"If I don't change with what is going on, I am going to be behind," says Liz Murphy, owner of the Learned Owl Book Shop in Hudson, Ohio, who is eager to see what Google will enable. "People are getting e-books but they aren't getting them from me."
The company also plans to launch a tool that will let any publisher send referrals to Google Editions and get a cut of the revenue.
- Google's rev-share terms and editorial freedom may be more appealing for authors/publishers
We won't know the rev-share terms until Google Editions launches, but for the sales platform to gain marketshare with authors and publishers, it will absolutely need to be better than the 70/30 split Amazon currently offers.
Meanwhile, as long as Google Editions ebooks can be purchased with a variety of online payment methods (and not just Google Checkout), then it shouldn't be difficult for authors/publishers to start generating revenue quickly. It should also be easier to set up subscriptions to novellas or blogs (a process that Apple has made impossible for content on the iPad).