Google is sure to shake up the digital book business with is new platform to sell e-Books. In classic Google-fashion it's becoming a "frenemy" — both a competitor and a new driver of revenue — for the likes of Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Ahead of its earnings announcement, at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the web giant unveiled details of its upcoming "Google Editions." One key difference about this digital bookstore is that its "editions" will be readable on any device -- phone, laptop, or e-Reader. This is a stark contrast to other digital bookstores, like Amazon.com's, whose books only work on the Kindle.
"Google Editions" is set to start selling about half a million books in June 2010. Once consumers arrive at Google's platform, they'll be able to buy books in a couple of different ways: either directly from Google, through a partner retailer like Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com, or go straight from the publisher's website. Each of these three options will have different revenue split for the publisher and Google.
The fact that the most popular search engine in the world will make it easier for consumers to find and buy digital books should help publishers like Random House, Simon and Schuster and Harper Collins. So far, it appears digital book sales aren't cannibalizing old-fashioned book sales. And as long as they're additive, the booksellers could use the extra revenue.
What this means for companies like BarnesandNoble.com, Sony , and Amazon, whose Kindle has the top e-reader market share, is a more complicated question. On one hand, the more content that's available for e-books, the more vibrant the platform can be. Barnes and Noble, set to unveil its e-reader within the next week, and its more established rivals need consumers to feel like they'll have virtually unlimited options if they buy one of the gadgets. The concern, I'm sure, is that Google will steal a piece of their business from selling the book downloads.
We'll see if Google drives enough traffic and grows the business enough to offset the revenue from book downloads it's sure to grab. Either way, whenever Google enters a business, it's a testament to the fact that it's one to watch.
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