A Digital Book Ecosystem

It looks like the gloves are off! Amazon, Scribd and now Google are going to be the players that will shape the future of e-books and the role publishers will have in this new frontier. It’s like the wild, wild west again when pioneers would pull along their wagon of ideas and boldly venture into new frontiers in hope of building a better tomorrow. This brave new frontier is the digital world of e-books.

Though Amazon was the first to step into the new world of e-books and e-reading, its business model is still from the old world which is reflected in the way it has kept a good part of its revenue from e-books for itself and “cutting authors and digital book publishers out of any substantial returns.”

Scribd, an online document sharing site, has jumped on the band wagon. I’m so impressed that they have the foresight to see that a new world product also requires a new world business model. They have introduced a harvest model of revenue sharing for e-books with authors and publishers which I find incredibly attractive. See post dated — for more on their model.

Now Google has drawn its guns. Like Scribd, they too realize that the success driver is not just about having content and a delivery system for e-reading, but it is about having a digital book ecosystem that is fair to all its stakeholders and rightly recognizing their role and contribution to the ecosystem. These range from the little guys who come up with creative content to publishers who are trying to find their place in this new world.

If Google is true to their motto “Don’t be evil” in how they deal, and more than that, to act honorably and treat each other with respect, then I’ll definitely be very interested in what Google’s business model would look like when they unveil it. This will be reflected in their digital book ecosystem. Let’s see….

The Channel WireJune 01, 2009
Uh Oh, Amazon: Google’s In The E-Book Business

Google has confirmed it will later this year launch a partner program for authors to sell digital versions of their books online — a move that will put Google in direct competition with Amazon, Amazon’s Kindle device, and anyone else with a stake in the exploding market for e-books and e-reading.

Google issued a statement Monday after The New York Times first reported its potential e-book plans Sunday. According to the statement, Google is at work on a “digital book ecosystem” that would allow authors to partner with Google and release and promote their works on a variety of platforms, including any device with Internet access.

“Eventually, we hope to extend this functionality to retailers who embed Google Previews on their Web site,” Google said in the statement.

Amazon’s dominance in the e-reading market took off following the February release of Kindle 2, the second version of its dedicated e-reading device, and last month’s unveiling of Kindle DX, a larger-screen version of the e-reader.

Competitors have since been coming out of the woodwork to challenge Kindle’s dominance, but none, really — whether device or e-reading application — has the weight Google has to throw around. And Google isn’t exactly a stranger to e-reading, either; the company’s ongoing project to digitize public domain books has drawn the ire of the Authors Guild, and also made it a partner of Sony, which in March said it would make all of Google’s public domain e-books available through its Sony eReader.

Google’s plan at first glance, however, seems author-friendly and allows for much variety in how readers access the books — two attributes Amazon doesn’t really share. If you download books from Amazon’s Kindle store, for example, the number of devices on which they can be read is limited to dedicated Kindles and Apple iPhones and iPods running Kindle applications.

We don’t believe that having a silo or proprietary system is the way that e-books will go,” said Tom Turvey, Google’s Strategic Director of Partnerships, at BookExpo over the weekend, according to The New York Times.

Amazon has also been widely criticized for keeping too much revenue from e-books for itself and cutting authors and digital book publishers out of any substantial returns. The online document sharing site Scribd, which recently said it would begin allowing authors a way to charge for their content, is among other e-reading entities seeming to directly target Amazon based on that criticism. Google told the Times over the weekend that it will allow publishers to set consumer prices for e-books sold through Google’s service.

That Amazon has competition isn’t exactly a surprise, but a Google e-book salvo is in a whole other league than, say, new e-reading devices from UK startup Interead.com or Plastic Logic, both of whom showed off their would-be Kindle Killers last week.

“Competitors will attack Amazon’s market position by launching new features, expanding content beyond books, dominating markets outside the U.S., reducing costs, and improving relationships with publishers,” wrote Forrester media and technology analyst Sarah Rotman Epps in a Monday research note. “With retailers, mobile operators, and device manufacturers all vying for a piece of the e-reader action, publishers should proactively shape their own e-reader opportunity — or miss their last best chance to control their own destiny.”

Posted by Chad Berndtson at 8:30 AM
Click for full report

For a quick insightful summary of Amazon and Google’s business philosophy and its mindset, I would recommend you check out this article from ireadreview.com


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