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.