Google Editions Shifts E-book Focus Away from Devices

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Google (GOOG) showed a little more leg Thursday regarding its long-term e-book plans. Instead of targeting dedicated e-book readers, such as Amazon’s Kindle or Sony’s Reader, the search giant indicated it aims to add e-books to its strategy of moving content and applications off devices and into the cloud by making the browser the primary platform for reading, distributing and publishing digital books.

Speaking at the O’Reilly Tools for Change conference held during the Frankfurt Book Fair, Tom Turvey, head of the Google Book’s publisher partnership program, said the company’s long-planned e-commerce platform for e-books, dubbed Google Editions, will launch by June of next year with 400,000 to 600,000 titles and will serve up books to any device connected to the Web.

Users will be able to buy the e-books directly from the publisher, from Google, or from partner retailers. Prices will be set by publishers and revenue splits will vary depending on the option the customer chooses.

In a major departure from proprietary e-book offerings, Google Editions will cache users’ purchases in a “cloud library,” allowing them to be accessed from anywhere using any device with a Web browser. “It will be a browser-based access,” Turvey said. “The way the e-book market will evolve is by accessing the book from anywhere, from any access point of view and also from a geographical point of view.”

Turvey added that he expects the majority of users will purchase books from one of Google Editions’ retail partners rather than from Google itself. “We are a wholesaler, a book distributor,” he said. “Google Editions allows retail partners to sell their books, especially those who haven’t invested in a digital platform.”

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