Due to my interest in communication, I have from time to time commented or drawn attention to developments in publishing (scientific and otherwise) and ebooks. Earlier this month, Google announced the launch of its ebook store and now Elsevier, a major publisher of scientific, technical, and medical information, has announced that it will be using Google’s ebook store as a new distribution channel. From the Dec. 10, 2010 news item on Nanowerk,
Elsevier, the world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, announced today that it is participating in the recently launched Google eBooks store by including a large selection of Elsevier’s eBook titles. Elsevier regards Google eBooks as a valuable new distribution channel to increase reach and accessibility of its scientific and professional ebook content in the United States.
“Selling a substantial part of our Science & Technology ebooks through Google eBooks will significantly add to the reach and accessibility of our content,” said Suzanne BeDell, Managing Director of Science & Technology Books at Elsevier. “The platform contains one of the largest ebook collections in the world and is compatible with a wide range of devices such as laptops, smartphones, e-readers and tablets. We are therefore confident that our partnership with Google will prove an important step in reaching our objective to provide universal access to scientific content.”
Presumably ‘adding accessibility’ as BeDell puts it means that the books will be significantly cheaper. (I still remember the shock I experienced at discovering the costs of academic texts. Years later, I am still recovering.)
I’m not sure that buyers will own the ebooks. It is possible for an ebook to be removed without notice if you buy from Amazon as I noted in my Sept. 10, 2010 posting, part 2 of a 3 part series on e-readers.)
If you’re interested in the Google part of the story, here’s an article by E. B. Boyd for Fast Company,
If you stroll on over to your corner bookstore this week and ask the person behind the counter about Google’s new ebookstore, which launches today, you probably won’t be greeted with the kind of teeth-gnashing that has accompanied other digital developments, like Amazon’s online bookstore or the advent of proprietary e-readers. Instead, you might actually be greeted with some excitement and delight. That’s because Google is taking a different approach to selling e-books than Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Rather than create a closed system that leaves others out in the cold, Google is actually partnering with independent bookstores to sell its wares–and share the profits.
There are a few reasons Google is going a different way. The ebookstore emerged from the Google Books program, which didn’t start out as a potential revenue stream. Instead, the company’s book-scanning project was simply a program to help the company fulfill its mission to make all of the world’s information accessible. Since so much information is contained in books, the company wanted to make sure that if you were using Google Search to look for a particular topic, it would be able to point you to books containing information about that topic, in addition to relevant web pages. Then, as Google Books began partnering with publishers and contemplating a program to sell books in addition to just making them searchable, it made a philosophical decision that brick-and-mortar bookstores are critical to the literary ecosystem. “A huge amount of books are bought because people go into a physical bookstore and say, ‘Hey, I want this, I want that,’” Google Books engineering director Dan Clancy told an audience at the Computer History Museum last year.
Here’s a response from some of the bookstore owners (from the article),
Bookstores seem to be cautiously optimistic about the Google program. A person who answered the phone at St. Mark’s Bookshop in New York said, “We’re looking forward to it,” before referring Fast Company to the ABA. “We’re really pleased,” said Mark LaFramboise, a buyer at Washington D.C.’s Politics and Prose. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Darin Sennett, director of strategic partnerships at the famous Powell’s book shop in Portland, Oregon, is particularly excited about Google’s technological model. The Kindle, the Nook, and the Sony eReader all use the traditional approach to e-books: They sell DRM-protected files that customers download to devices and which must be read with specific e-reading software. Google, however, is using the cloud. Its e-books will be stored on Google servers, and readers who’ve purchased them will access their books via a browser. [emphasis mine] Unlike in the Kindle system, where Kindle e-books can only be read on Kindle devices, Google e-books will be able to be read on any device that has a browser. Until now, independent bookstores have been effectively shut out of devices like the iPad and smartphones (which are emerging as many customers’ reading platforms of choice) because the e-books available from other distributors were either not compatible with those devices or the formatting was so clunky as to make them effectively unreadable.
Certainly, this sounds a lot better from the bookseller’s and reader’s perspectives. I’m glad to see that people at one of my favourite bookstores (Powell’s) is so enthusiastic but I do note that the books are stored on Google’s servers, which means they can be removed or even altered quite easily. On the plus side, the books can be downloaded in either PDF or ePub format. All in all, bravo!