Google Editions to Go on Sale by June or July?

Speaking at a Book Industry Study Group panel in New York, the Wall Street Journal reports Google Book Search’s manger for strategic partner development Chris Palma indicated Google intends to start selling digital books under the name “Google Editions” beginning in June or July of this year. Although Google has been working on launching its own ebook service for more than a year, the move will finally put it into direct competition with the likes of Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com.

Google has been offering a large number of public domain titles to ebook readers for some time in the ePub format for free, and many ebook stores have made deals with Google to offer those titles in order substantially expand their selection. However, Google Editions will focus on offering current and catalog titles from major publishers. Palma’s statement is the first time Google has pinned a date to any of its retail bookselling plans.

Google has not offered any information on book pricing or which publishers will be participating in the program. Google will be touting the value of Google Editions to consumers as being ebooks that can easily be shared across a wide variety of devices, from dedicated ereaders and mobile devices to netbooks and PCs. For booksellers, Google plans to launch affiliate programs that will allow retailers, independent booksellers, and online businesses to offer Google Editions for sale via their own sites, keeping the majority of revenue from the sale.

Google Editions is a separate effort from Google’s efforts to digitize and offer for sale out-of-print books; Google’s actions have been challenged by a wide variety of publishers and rights holders, along with Internet giants like Yahoo and Microsoft and even the Justice Department—a U.S. District Court is expected to rule in the Google Books case soon. In the meantime, Google is facing a similar legal complaint from visual artists whose work may be subsumed in Google’s mammoth scan-and-sell initiative.

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