Google eBookstore Finally Opens For Business

After a series of delays, the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) eBookstore is finally open for business. The initial plans for June 2009 called for 500,000 titles. Now, Google says that readers can shop from “hundreds of thousands” of titles plus about 2.8 million free e-books — all available through a browser as well as on free Android and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) apps.

The search giant has signed up most major publishers, including Random House, Simon & Schuster and Hachette, and is working with three retailers to provide an assist on the sales side: Powell’s, Alibris and members of the American Booksellers Association. In all, Google has agreements with 35,000 publishers around the world.

To help spread the word, Google is also partnering with GoodReads, which lets users recommend titles to others in their social network.

“The underlying philosophy is buy anywhere and read anywhere,” said James Crawford, director of engineering for Google Books, in an interview. Although it has agreements to sell e-books from 35,000 publishers around the world — 4,000 in the U.S. — the eBookstore will only be available in the U.S. at launch. The company expects the European and other versions to open early next year.

Rev share: In addition to thousands of free e-books, prices for Google’s e-books range from $0.99 to $300 (science textbooks are the most expensive). In terms of the revenue share, there are a couple of different models at work here, said Amanda Edmonds, director of Google Books’ strategic partnerships. Under the standard terms, 52 percent of the list price goes back to the publishers, while publishers who sell through its retail partners get 45 percent. Meanwhile, the larger publishers who fall under the “agency category” and make up about half of the bestseller list, will get 70 percent. Still, Edmonds noted that there are a lot of individual agreements with publishers so the revenue share can vary.