Consumers in the Cloud: Google and Digital Books (TOCCON 2010)

O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing Conference 2010At O’Reilly Publishing Tools of Change (TOC) conference: Consumers in the Cloud: Google and Digital Books presented by Abe Murray, Product Manager at Google Books.

There are millions (billions?) more browsers than ebook readers, so why not use the browser as an ereader? (This is the approach we took with our m-novel Kontax.) You can walk into a bookstore and buy any book. Not so with ebooks, e.g. Kindle locks you into ebooks from Amazon. Google no like … Google Books mantra: buy anywhere, read anywhere. So Google moves into the ereader market with Google Editions — it’s browser-based and in the cloud (of course)!

How it works: Users preview book on They can buy the book directly from or through retailer site. User then owns a Google Edition ebook. All users books will then be online and accessible anywhere, anytime in the cloud in their Google Books library. Further:

  • eBooks will be full colour (they were scanned in colour)
  • Social features / sharing margin notes
  • Seamless reading between devices
  • Using HTML5, users can also read offline
  • Simple ereader interface in the browser
  • Will support DRM and DRM-free content (depending on publisher requirements)
  • Will allow copy/paste/print or not (depending on publisher requirements)
  • Revenue split when buying directly from Google Books: 37% to Google, 63% to publisher
  • Territory rights of the publishers will be respected (not sure how they’re going to do this)
  • You’re not locked into Google if you buy their books.You can take the files with you if you leave. And devices should be able to access the open-standards data. Google Books is part of the Data Liberation Front at Google
  • Ideas: bundling ebook with print book
  • The Google eReader will launch in 2010, mostly likely in the early part of second half of the year

Abe: “This is a great year for ebooks and Google’s gonna be part of that.”

OK, so this is all very interesting. Yes, Google will still be a controlling party in the value chain (let’s not forget that they make money … they don’t just love freeing information for the love of it). But their control will be less restrictive than current publishers. Definitely a space to watch.

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