Kindle and Google eBooks Fight For the Web

This Tuesday, just days after the release of Google’s new eBook store, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) gave us our first glance at the new Kindle for the Web service.  Seemingly meant to compete almost point for point with its new Google counterpart, Kindle for the Web will let users transcend the limitations of dedicated eReaders, and even eReading apps, to the point of opening your collection on practically any web browser on the market.  We can expect to be seeing an actual release of this product, and the complete eBook access it brings with it, early next year, though in the meantime the existing service allowing Amazon customers to preview select chapters of their books will have to do.

This new web service will allow for inter-device syncing, all of the highlighting/bookmarking/annotating that you could ever want, and the ability to share your favorite passages all without ever bothering to install an app or download much more than the book you happen to be reading (which will end up in your temporary internet files to be cleaned up later anyway).  It’s hard to say if this is meant to be a catch-all replacement for the many device-specific applications currently being distributed, but it will open up possibilities and, hopefully, a chance at simultaneous feature roll outs across the Kindle family.

One of the other fun additions to the product line that comes along for the ride is the ability to make pretty much any website into its own little Kindle book store. Webmasters, bloggers, and pretty much anybody with a web site should now get the chance to talk about or quote from their favorite books, link along to a purchase page for the main text, and maybe even make a little bit of money for the referral.  This could be a great way for the Amazon marketing machine to send out some quick and easy connections to the web at large.

The most interesting point on which Google seems to have the edge here is the opportunities for independent authors.  In addition to an easy upload program for authors, similar to what Amazon has already been doing, there are some really neat promotional tools to play with.   It also has some built-in social networking.  Assuming you set things in your profile to ‘public’, your friends can look through your purchases, see what you’re reading, and get a general comparison of what people are up to.  It’s a new service, so of course the novelty hasn’t worn off yet, but I’m finding it to be a lot of fun so far.

If I had to make a guess at this stage, acknowledging that the Kindle for the Web service is still pretty difficult to review to any extent as it doesn’t really exist yet for us general users, I’d say that these services are pretty much equally matched.  Amazon has the experience, but Google may soon have the superior selection, and may even adapt their service to be usable on Kindle devices themselves (currently you can use it on the Nook, but the Kindle‘s browser doesn’t quite cut it.  We’ll know more for sure in early 2011, it seems!

Kindle to have new competitor soon – Google Editions!

Current reports have indicated that the much awaited Google entry into the eBook marketplace is soon to be released.  We had expected to see this early in the summer, based on initial time-lines, but some technical difficulties and a few not so technical difficulties got in the way.  More recent reports lead expectant readers to believe that we will now see a store unveiling within the next month!  Google Editions, as it is currently known, will be an extension growing from the established Google Books service.

The central idea behind the service, as best as I can tell, is that users will be able to access their purchased books through any device with a web browser after they log into their Google account.  This would eliminate the need for dedicated eReading devices, in theory, while still allowing access to your purchased books on devices like the Kindle that have web browsing capabilities.  The one obvious functional roadblock comes from the inability to access your eBooks without an internet connection.  Supposedly there will be the option to download your purchases, but so far no information about format or offline compatibility seems to be available.  This could slightly hinder adoption by owners of Nook and Kindle devices, since leaving y0ur internet connection constantly turned on can cause significantly faster battery drain.

It is unclear at this point what the potential is for success here.  Google has a reputation for doing things right, but they face an established market of competitors at this point and a lack of goodwill from existing copyright holders(as evidenced by the need for a 2008 settlement on lawsuits related to the Google Books service).  It won’t help matters that Google will not allow publishers to set their list prices for eBooks at a price higher than the lowest priced print version of the same book, nor that the default pricing will be set at 80%.  Will the popularity of the service be enough to overcome this?  We can only wait and see.  Personally, I’m hoping so.  My only major complaint about the Kindle has been the closed format restrictions that it forces on me, so ways around that would be more than welcome.