Google enters ebooks market

Janet Babin Dec 6, 2010

Google enters ebooks market

Janet Babin Dec 6, 2010


Bob Moon: You know what they say about getting over a broken heart — even a $6 billion one — move onto something else. That’s rarely a problem for Google. So, Groupon? Groupon who?

Yeah, the search giant’s big bid for the coupon site was rebuffed. But today Google moved to conquer another market. It began selling digital books. The search giant is now taking on pros like Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble, for a share of the estimated $1 billion ebook market.

As Janet Babin reports, the rivalry could turn out to be a real page turner.

Janet Babin: For years now, Google has made classics like “War and Peace” available online for free. Today it began selling 3 million popular book titles like James Patterson’s “Cross Fire” and “Happy Ever After” from Nora Roberts at Google eBooks.

The site is cloud-based, or “open” — that means you don’t need a special gadget to read your books; you can access them from any device that has a web browser, like your smartphone or your iPad.

Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey says ebook sellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble can do that too.

James McQuivey: People are not going to notice the difference between Google’s strategy and Amazon’s Kindle strategy, because Amazon’s technically available on every device that Google is.

Independent book sellers are thrilled with Google’s ebook site. It’ll let indie’s sell ebooks through a link to Google and pick up about 30 percent of the sale.

Tom Campbell co-owns the Regulator bookshop in Durham, N.C.

Tom Campbell: This is a portion of our market that we have just lost previously, maybe 20 percent or so of our market. We haven’t been able to interact with it and now, we can do that.

Some analysts are flummoxed by Google’s latest venture. Roger Kay at Endpoint Technologies says Google has a bad habit of competing with its own customers.

Roger Kay: They’re alienating some companies who were formerly partners in order to get into a business that it’s not at all sure they’re going to be able to make money at.

There’s no advertising on Google’s ebooks site just yet. But one day, analysts say ads could start showing up as you search for books, and even, as you turn the page.

In New York, I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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