Is Google about to offer a kick-rear bookstore for us e-book fans?
And will yet another e-book format pop up?
The Times in the U.K. says today:
The internet search giant is working on a system that would allow readers to download entire books to their computers in a format that they could read on screen or on mobile devices such as a Blackberry.
With 380m people using Google each month, the move would give a significant boost to the development of e-books and have a big impact on the publishing industry and book retailers.
Jens Redmer, director of Google Book Search in Europe, said: “We are working on a platform that will let publishers give readers full access to a book online.”
Alex at MobileRead worries that Google may not allow offline reading, apparently because the article mentions: “read on screen or on mobile devices such as a Blackberry.” Blackberries come with Web browsing capabilities, of course.
The Blackberry’s tiny screen and online vs. offline
How well, though, would Blackberry owners fare with an online-only approach from Google? The company’s Book Search now relies on images of book pages. I doubt that would work too well on small, Blackberry-sized screens. Of course, Google could still use an online-only approach with some variant of HTML. But if it’s going to that trouble, it may well want to do a full-fledged format for offine reading.
Besides, what about the article’s repeated use of the D word, Download—as opposed to use of simply the E-Book Museum approach. Yep, the Museum approach still involves downloads, technically. But I remain optimistic. What’s more, I think a browser approach is cool if keep-the-book downloads are still possible as well.
The NIH issue
Anther issue is whether Google will apply its frequent Not Invented Here mindset. Or instead will it go by a standard in line with the IDPF‘s?
Or maybe even be influenced by the superior OpenReader specs?
While I’ve got my differences with OpenReader over the enforcement and implementation of the standard and prefer that standards work happen in the IDPF, I still believe in the technological virtues of the OR approach.
Laudable interest in mobile devices
Meanwhile—regardless of my eBabel concerns and also my fears that one company could exercise too much control over publishing as if:book has warned, or in the opposite direction let onerous, publisher-mandated DRM clutter things up—I’m heartened that Google cares about the mobile market from the start.
Along the way, newspapers could benefit as well, given the attractiveness of mobile devices as options for newspaper readers, who, after all, can’t lug and read from desktops on the subway.
Kickstart for e-book biz?
More importantly from a TeleBlog book perspective, I hope this gives the e-book industry the kickstart badly needs.
In the grand scheme of things, a big Google e-book push in the retail area just might be far, far more significant than the advent of E Ink readers. The real markets will remain for now on PDAs and cellphones and desktops.
All of this, of course, is predicated on the Times report being factual about the nuances. Oh, those little details!
Related: How about the possibility of a Google phone with e-book capabilities? Check out the Cleveland Leader. Interestingly, the blog notes that the device will lack on-board storage. So who knows? Even though online browsing doesn’t necessarily preclude the keep-the-book kind of offline reading, maybe Alex could be right in his fears even though I suspect otherwise.
Also of interest: University of Texas library in Austin joins Google Book Search project, from TechWhack.
Disclosure: I’ve got a tiny slice of Google stock for retirement purposes, but haven’t in the least refrained from being grouchy about the company when it deserves this.