Google Promises Publishers (And Amazon) Will Sell E-Books In 2009

imageNothing says we’re not a monopoly like trying to break up another perceived stranglehold. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) plans to enter the commercial e-book business this year — and, unlike Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), apparently plays to let publishers set prices, according to The New York Times. The program would be separate from the recent book-scanning settlement. Piecing together conversations Google held with publishers at the BookExpo in New York with a presentation made by Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships at Google, the NYT reports:

— Publishers could set their own prices and probably would be allowed to charge as much as they do for hardcovers but Google would retain the right to lower “exorbitant” rates. Amazon sets its own prices, buying wholesale and taking a loss on some to keep the usual price for hardcover equivalents at $9.99

— Publishers still aren’t sure how the direct-to-consumer sales would work but Turvey told them the company is committed to making it happen by the end of 2009: “This time we mean it.”

— Readers would gain online access to digital titles but also would retain access offline through cached versions in browsers. (This sounds like a job for Google Gears, the sync manager which is not the most stable app in my experience. It’s the app most likely to crash in Google Chrome for me so far.)

— Access would not be limited to certain devices but would require internet access.

Motoko Rich goes pretty far for a news piece with the flat-out claim that Amazon “is seeking to control the e-book market.” Dominate, I can see, but control suggests the M word and Amazon isn’t close to that.