Google has been scanning, indexing books and making them available either fully or partially for a while now, a move not without its share of controversy, but now it has announced that it will begin to sell e-books as well. This will place it in direct competition with Amazon.com, which currently offers e-books for its Kindle reading device.
Publishers have had some concerns about Amazon.com, which sells e-books for Kindle, as well as iPhone and iPod touch devices running Kindle software, at a fixed rate of $9.99, well below the regular retail price of $26 for hardcover books. "Clearly, any major company coming into the e-book space, providing that we are happy with the pricing structure, the selling price and the security of the technology, will be a welcome addition," David Young, chief executive of Hachette Book Group, told the N.Y. Times.
Amazon.com has also enjoyed somewhat of a monopoly status that Google, it too regularly accused of a dominating position in certain markets, aims to break down. The search giant wants to enable the sale of e-books in a variety of formats, readable on any devices, be it PC, phones, netbooks or dedicated reading devices. "Eventually, we hope to extend this functionality to retailers who embed Google Previews on their website," Google said in a statement.
The Mountain View-based company has already scanned seven million books from several universities and has made 1.5 million falling under public domain available online, a move that prompted publishers and authors to seek legal ways of combating this. Finally a settlement was reached, which allows Google to sell access to the scanned books, and which will also allow it to sell e-book versions of popular books the publishers will provide. Currently the search giant offers preview versions of the books and gives links to online retailers where users can purchase them in either e-book or physical form.