Google is finishing up work on its e-book service, putting the search giant in direction competition with companies such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. That's the news today from the Wall Street Journal, which reports that Google Editions will be accessible to US consumers by the end of 2010, and internationally by the first quarter of next year.
From the Journal article:
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.
The appeal here is clear: Google Editions, as opposed to e-book offerings from other companies, will be unlocked, and always accessible, no matter what kind of gadget you're carrying. As in the case of Android – which Google has positioned as an alternative to Apple's "walled garden" – open is the name of the game here. And there is certainly something to be said for not having to constantly fret about system compatibility.
Moreover, as Seth Weintraub of Fortune points out, a Google store would be fully searchable. "Google's core search technologies (which are also indexing e-books) will make books that much easier to find by people searching for specific information," he writes. "Integrating e-books into search results will not only make searches and the information they provide more robust, but will create yet another huge buying channel that doesn't already exist."
But running a major e-book operation will require a deft touch with customer service – something that Google has struggled with in the past. Back in January, for instance, Google released its Nexus One smartphone, which was by all accounts a solid handset. But within a few weeks of launch, Google was slammed with complaints from consumers apparently unable to reach Google customer support.
Not that managing an online bookstore and a smartphone launch are the same thing. Still....