Although 6 months behind schedule it appears that Google are about to roll out their commercial eBook store Google Editions. As promised, unlike other stores that tie you into using a single eReader platform ie eBooks purchased on Amazon only work on a Kindle, B&N only on a Nook, Apple only on an iPad etc (although Apple do sell non-DRM ePub docs as well, so technically eReader agnostic, but personally I’ve never got them to work properly on anything than other an iPad), Google Editions however, will allow your purchases to be read on most, if not all, eReaders… although don’t hold your breath that they will work on a Kindle!
You will access your purchased eBooks and subscriptions via a Google Editions account, Google will have a store of it’s own, but it’s planning to offer it’s Editions versions on Independent book sellers websites. The way Google plan to achieve this, is having a browser based eReader, plus native device based eReader software, but it’s the browser based eReader that concerns me, just how good a reading experience will you have using a browser based application? Plus that doesn’t sound like a practical option for e-Ink based eReaders.
I appreciate we live in a connected world, but quite often when I’m reading an eBook I’m not connected to the web, with my Kindle offline for days if not weeks at a time, of course Editions books will be cached in your browser’s memory, but it still seems a little flakey to me. The real gripe though is yet another format, Google talk the talk of being open etc, yet Google Editions will not be in any sort of transferable format, you can’t simply download a book you’ve purchased and put it on your eReader of choice (in fact you can’t exactly download a book!), this is a major drawback of nearly all eBook platforms, and a major hurdle to the uptake by new users and the continued expansion of the market. It’s high time the likes of Amazon, B&N, Apple, Sony & Google agree to play nicely and stop trying to control a market by continually fragmenting it. Standards win in the end, think email, SMS, HTML, until there’s a truly open format (and I mean really OPEN), new adopters will continue to be confused and frustrated with their choices and purchases.
Buying an eBook should have advantages over a physical purchase, but you know when you purchase a paper book, it’s yours to keep, you can lend it to a friend and they won’t run into any compatibility problems when it comes to reading it. Will consumers have the final say on this, will the social media revolution really give users a voice and enough clout to eventually force the big guys into open standards? it will be interesting to see how it pans out, it will probably take a few class action legal cases to rock the boat enough that legislation forces them to adhere to users having the right to transfer and truly own their digital purchases (if you’ve ever bought anything for the Kindle, look in the T&C’s and notice that you don’t actually own your purchases, they’re merely on loan to you from Amazon, and they have the right to stop you accessing them anytime they want!)
Anyway I’m veering off subject, Google Editions will be available in the US in the coming weeks and Europe Q1 2011