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And the shoe drops!

Google announces retail sales of ebooks for any Web-enabled device.

This, my friends, is the game-changing development that has been lurking in the background for years, but it wasn't at all clear how it was going to come about.

Wow.

Comments

( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
cakmpls
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:23 pm (UTC)
I'm still not going to switch from paper. I spend all my working time reading onscreen material (editing manuscripts). And then there's the reading of LJ, Facebook, etc. When I read for pleasure, I want a different format.
alicebentley
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
I am sure that paper will always be with us - it's just so darn convenient and tactile! But ebooks have been luring me for a while now, especially when traveling or (Ghu help me) when I choose to move again. I haven't jumped on that wagon because we're not yet to the point where I like the storage or display systems, but I can see them both moving closer to what I want as new products hit the market.

My biggest hesitation for ebooks has been my unwillingness to buy anything that's completely device-dependent, the fact that chasing them down can be arduous, and that the system right now gives almost nothing to the creators.

If Google implements something like what I'm thinking of, a lot of those will change. Of course, I'm also making all sorts of assumptions about what their new store will look like and how it will operate, and the more I go over it with people here, the more I realize that I don't yet have justification for those assumptions. I suppose i should go and learn more....

Edited at 2009-10-16 05:48 pm (UTC)
beamjockey
Oct. 16th, 2009 10:18 pm (UTC)
Maybe it's a good time NOT to be in the bookstore business!
beamjockey
Oct. 16th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
Although a clever MBA may be able to figure out new opportunities to make money in the new environment...
johnridley
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:23 pm (UTC)
Doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me, really. It's probably about as big a deal as eBooks on the iPhone, somewhat less than the Kindle. I'm sure it'll be another important step.

Hopefully they'll also sell in one of the open formats like ePub so those of us with non-connected eBook readers can buy from them (assuming that they'll be selling non-DRM'd books; I don't pay a penny to companies doing DRM).
minnehaha
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:33 pm (UTC)
What's your analysis that brings you to game-changing?

K.
alicebentley
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
The two things that I see as game-changing are dropping the DRM and offering to host the retail site, with a (bare) majority of the money going to the publisher.

I may well be talking out of my hat, as I really haven't stayed up to date on recent developments, but DRM always seemed to be a system that only worked while everyone played. Having some material, like Project Gutenberg, the Baen Free Library, and various author's individual efforts, out there in readily-transferable formats nibbled at the edges. But I'm guessing that having a major player like Google go DRM-free is going to force the other big providers to follow along. Their marketing departments should have been letting them know that it wasn't that critical anyway, but it's hard to let go of something you have placed such importance on.

I see distribution as the trickiest and most critical part of bookselling. The amount of material to represent is so vast that anything that facilitates the buyer seeing the seller's offerings can't help but affect sales. Amazon has been the earthquake on the landscape, but even they have to pick and choose which books to represent. You can go a long ways with economies of scale, but you still need to ship everything, and can't afford to deal with publishers who won't discount heavily or who have less than professional sales departments.

With Google I'm imagining something more like iTunes, but without DRM and without the punishing sales terms that iTunes requires. Google seems more able, and willing, to adapt to the abilities of the middle sized and small publisher, and is offering an encouraging enough payment schedule to prompt them to apply.

People buy when it's easy and not too expensive. People sell when you make the process of supply straightforward, and have confidence in payment. There have been a bunch of reasons why neither side was that workable in ebooks, and (making a boatload of assumptions about how they are actually going to implement this) Google retail of ebooks may well fix both sides at once.
minnehaha
Oct. 16th, 2009 09:45 pm (UTC)
DRM
"...DRM always seemed to be a system that only worked while everyone played."

Agreed, bad guys included.

B
lonotter
Oct. 16th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)
Ok, I'm admittedly not up to full speed on all the issues, but this along with the lawsuit and hoo-ha about Google's digitizing of books really has my bogosity meter pegging at the "don't be evil" part, particularly in regard to the rights of the authors/copyright holders.

And like John, I don't want (as in, I won't buy) ebooks that require I be connected to the web to read. The article seems to imply, when they state that the book will be cached in the browser, that reading off-line may be possible, but that doesn't sound too promising if you want to have access to more than one ebook at a time. I want to download my ebook, and put the file in a directory structure of my choosing, so I can index it the way I want. (no, no system is actually going to be perfect, but this does not sound workable, while Sony's system, and I presume the Kindle's, is).

My gut says that this isn't a game-changer. Its not offering *me* anything that Gutenberg, Kindle, Sony, etc. aren't already doing. Maybe the general public will see it differently, I know that either I'm not representative of the ebook-reading public, or I'm not representative of what the designers think we should be.

I have over a thousand books on my reader, which seriously freaked out Sony support. But why *shouldn't* I carry around all my favorites and the stuff that just plain looks intersting at once?
alicebentley
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:36 pm (UTC)
It's true, I made an assumption that the Web connection was necessary only for the download. If that's not the case, and people are really being asked to pay just to have viewing rights, that drops the whole "easy to buy" part out of the picture, and I can't see it competing well with other ebooks. It also makes the whole DRM-free assumption moot, so there's that too.
isherempress
Oct. 16th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm not sure this is really the big deal
Given that several of your respondents so far are well on their way to "middle age" let's assume that they (we) are not the target audience for these eBooks. For myself, reading on the iToy is okay and ghu knows I do a lot of it especially in the middle of the night, but while the NYT is fine because I can adjust the font size, gmail sucks because I cannot. So interface will be critical in the product. ...

And paying for it? There's an abundance of FREE material already out there. I don't know. I'm going to sit back and see how this goes. Plus I want to know how & where liberries fit in (why do I get the feeling they'll be screwed first?) (why do I think poor people will get screwed, too -- oh, right, they are liberry users!).

The trouble with monopolies is that eventually they get too big for their britches, and there's no one to keep them in check. Except the public, maybe, who could opt not to buy the product. Oh, that's right, I *do* have an iToy. Never mind. We're all hosed.
alicebentley
Oct. 16th, 2009 06:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Yeah, I'm not sure this is really the big deal
What reading through the comments here really emphasized is that I don't know the details of how they are going to set this up. And there's every chance that my assumptions are based more on what seems reasonable to me than on what they are actually planning on doing.

Nevertheless, I think there will be a time, possibly not that far from now, where someone sets up something with the ubiquitousness of iTunes, the freedom of Project Gutenberg, the facility of Amazon, and the payment possibilities of the independent publishers. The devices are almost there, the software has been here for a while, and it's (only, ha! only) a matter of having enough resources to implement it and a willingness to do so.

Google has gotten too big for their britches in many respects, and I think their ham-handed way of appropriating all text everywhere just because is an aspect of that. But they also still seem to be connected to their earlier philosophies, and I'm willing to see how their next few efforts play out before condeming them (not that you were).

Regarding libraries and ebooks, I really can't guess which way it will go. I think it should be as cheap and easy as possible for libraries to access and distribute books. But I can see that there still needs to be some mechanism that rewards the publishers and creators as well. The current method of limiting checkouts to the number of copies of an ebook that have been purchased, seems clunky and unnecessary. But I don't know what better system to suggest.
chantry
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, I don't see this as game-changing at all. Very few people are going to want to sit at their computer and read a several-hundred-page-long book. And the people who will be willing to do this on their phones, etc already are.

And I won't pay for something that I can't download to my own machine, none of this "cached in the web browser" stuff.

Add on Google's cavalier attitude towards copyright, and, well, I just won't, and I think a lot of people won't. And I'm an e-reader early adopter, have been since the Nuvomedia Rocketbook over 10 years ago.
alicebentley
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:32 pm (UTC)
Ah, I've made the quite-possibly-incorrect assumption that the Web connection was only necessary to download the book. If they require an active connection for reading, that takes the whole ownership aspect off, and I don't think people are ready to pay money just to look at something.

As far as readers go, neither the laptop or the phone really fit the bill yet, but Kindle and some of the netbooks are getting darn close to being the right form factor, and I expect we will see a lot more devices entering into that field.
minnehaha
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
And, over at Amazon, Kindles are on sale today!

K.
alicebentley
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:44 pm (UTC)
Take off the DRM, add a method to back up my books off-device, and I would be powerfully interested. Until then, not so much.
alicebentley
Oct. 16th, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, and reset the sales terms to publishers so that creators actually make more than a tiny fraction of the price.

As long as I'm askin'.
lonotter
Oct. 16th, 2009 06:32 pm (UTC)
Have you looked at the Sony Reader? It will do non-DRM formats (most of our 1K+ titles are in ePub from from Gutenberg), and you can put your paid titles on up to, IIRC, 6 devices - one of which is whatever machine you purchase through, and which serves as your main library. And a couple months ago they went Mac-compatible. The interface to purchase and move documents on and off the device is clunky (it was clearly designed with the idea of a library being a couple-few dozen documents), but it works. Sounds like it may be about what you're looking for.

Yeah, Ron and I like ours. :)
botgrrrl
Oct. 16th, 2009 08:10 pm (UTC)
Chantry and I love our Sony's.

Sony, for once, seems to have have gotten it (mostly) right.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )