Google launched an e-book store on Monday, marking its official entrance — alongside Amazon, Apple and Barnes And Noble — in the war for marketshare in the still-nascent e-book industry.
The store — called Google eBooks — boasts an impressive catalog at launch of over 3 million titles, making it the biggest e-book library in the world (Barnes and Noble carries 2 million e-book titles; Amazon has 750,000; Apple's iBooks, which lacks agreements with some major publishers, like Random House, has far less).
Google’s e-books are compatible with the Android, Apple’s iPad, iPhone and iTouch, Barnes And Noble’s Nook and Sony’s e-reader, among other devices.
Notably absent on Google’s compatibility list: Amazon’s Kindle.
“Today is the first page in a new chapter of our mission to improve access to the cultural and educational treasures we know as books,” Google Books product manager Abraham Murray wrote in an introductory post on the company’s blog. “We designed Google eBooks to be open. Many devices are compatible with Google eBooks — everything from laptops to netbooks to tablets to smartphones to e-readers. With the new Google eBooks Web Reader, you can buy, store and read Google eBooks in the cloud. That means you can access your ebooks like you would messages in Gmail or photos in Picasa — using a free, password-protected Google account with unlimited ebooks storage.”
Prices for book downloads range from $9.99 to $12.99. There’s a special section for New York Times bestsellers — which, at least for now, is a list based on physical book sales.
“I don’t suspect that Google will initially be very successful with this ebook venture,” Devindra Hardawar wrote on VentureBeat. “Competitors like Amazon and Barnes and Noble are already entrenched in the market, and consumers interested in ebooks are already loyal to at least one of Google’s competitors.”
But the sheer size of Google’s e-book library, and vice-grip on Internet search, makes it, at least in theory, a formidable opponent.
Since Google has always been interested in books. Since launching Google Books in 2004, the company claims it has “digitized more than 15 million books from more than 35,000 publishers, more than 40 libraries, and more than 100 countries in more than 400 languages.”