Surprise! Google's Book Play Is About the Browser

product-descr-book_v15485687_Google’s announcement that it (s goog) will launch Google Editions, its e-book publishing platform, next year, may have gotten a lot of attention among publishers and e-book enthusiasts, but it’s more than just a Kindle killer. While Google’s plan to offer readers access to 400,000-600,000 books on any device adds to the growing list of challenges to Amazon’s (s amzn) Kindle empire, the search giant’s browser-based strategy makes clear its attempts to keep its primary money-making engine front and center, writes Paul Sweeting (GigaOM Pro, subscription required).

Indeed, if there’s one thing the success of the Kindle has shown — much as Apple demonstrated with iTunes and the iPod — is how important it is to control the platform in a digital distribution market. Controlling the platform gives the operator control of the user experience, which, in turn, gives it control of the value chain. It also cuts out the need for the browser to act as the middleman between users and online content. Given that Google made $22 billion a year providing ads as that middleman, devices like the Kindle represent a threat to its primary revenue stream.

From a preference for web-based mobile apps (sub reqd) to its Chrome OS, Google’s big bet is that the browser — not the device on which it operates — is the best way to reach consumers. So protecting the browser is Google’s goal here. If it happens to kill off the e-reader market or hurt Amazon, well, that’s just gravy.