Can Google’s Digital Bookstore Succeed?

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It has been widely speculated that Google’s Book Search project would become the gateway to a much larger vision that the search company had in mind all along. By going public with their intent to offer an e-book service, Google has dropped the other shoe regarding its efforts to digitize book content.

Can Google's Digital Bookstore Succeed?
Will Google’s Bookstore Be A Success?

You knew it was just a matter of time before Google came clean with plans to monetize its book search service. Rather than an ad-driven model, the company has decided to go the retail route with its e-book plans.

Google has experienced much success in finding ways to monetize traffic and content; there’s no denying this fact. However, venturing into the realm of digital books might prove to be a bit more challenging for the search giant.

Catherine Holahan of Business Week has some excellent insight into the potential hurdles facing Google as they attempt this venture:

Several factors are holding back growth of digital books. One is the way they are consumed. Several companies, such as Sony, have recently launched portable devices for reading books and accompanying digital book download services (see BusinessWeek.com, 12/29/05, “Curling Up with a Good E-Book”).

About 11,000 titles are available for download onto the Sony Reader, introduced at the end of September, a Sony spokeswoman says. However, the devices have yet to take off, says Pat Schroeder, AAP’s chief executive officer. “At this point consumers have not found something that they felt was a really good substitute [for the book],” says Schroeder. As another publishing insider puts it, “We haven’t yet had the iPod device of the book.”

Another obstacle has been the book industry itself, which has been reluctant to release entire catalogs for download in part because of concerns over how such distribution will affect the bottom line and copyright protections. On Sept. 20, the Authors Guild filed a class action against Google for its plans to scan books in their entirety.

The McGraw-Hill Cos. (MHP; owner of BusinessWeek.com), Pearson Education (PSO), Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group, and John Wiley & Sons (JW.A) brought their own suit against the search engine for its online book plans (see BusinessWeek.com, 4/24/06, “Ganging Up on Google”).

I wonder, however, if people actually want an iPod for their books?

Is reading simply processing words into thoughts regardless of the medium in which those words are presented, or is it a deeper, more tangible process for which the avid reader yearns when picking up a new novel?

For me, there’s just something about holding a book in your hands. The actual change in posture as you “curl up” with the book, the methodical process of turning the pages by hand, and even the smell of the paper are all aspects of reading that simply cannot be duplicated in a digital format.

It’s for this reason that places like Barnes & Noble do crazy amounts of business. They offer not just a place to come and buy a book, but an atmosphere in which you can sit down in a comfortable chair and peruse a title or two while catching the faint aroma of freshly brewed coffee from the strategically placed caf.

There are a lot of factors working against Google in its quest to open a digital bookstore. It will be interesting to see how the company handles adversity; given its complete and utter dominance in almost everything else it has rolled out.

As for me, I’ll still be happy to curl up with my physical copy of The Lord of the Rings whenever I’m in need of a quality read.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.

Can Google’s Digital Bookstore Succeed?
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