A really big new development in the Google Vs Amazon Book Wars. Motoko Rich of the NYTimes has written about how Google is planning on selling ebooks direct to consumers –
In discussions with publishers at the annual BookExpo convention in New York over the weekend, Google signaled its intent to introduce a program that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google … it has now committed the company to going live with the project by the end of 2009.
In accordance with its Do No Evil philosophy Google will be good to publishers and let them set prices –
In early discussions, Google has said it will allow publishers to set consumer prices.
Google initially seem to be targeting a model where users can read books sold by Google on any device with Internet access.
For publishers, the big news is –
Mr. Turvey said that Google would probably allow publishers to charge consumers the same price for digital editions as they do for new hardcover versions. He said Google would reserve the right to adjust prices that it deemed “exorbitant.”
Is this related to the Book Settlement?
Not exactly – that is a settlement that would give Google the right to sell public domain books and, more importantly, to sell orphaned works. It would also give Google and Publishers the right to make money off of books whose rights holders could not be found.
The books that aren’t covered by the Book Settlement are new releases and books under copyright where copyright owners are known and are around to claim their rights. The new initiative by Google is to include digital editions of these books and sell them to customers.
Basically, Google is saying they want to be able to sell every book every written. Its also a pretty clear attempt at establishing a non-advertising driven revenue stream. Plus, if you think about it, getting the rights to orphaned works makes them content sellers (although they aren’t creating it themselves, just assuming rights for it).
Allowing publishers to charge the same price for digital editions as they do for new hardcover books is just wrong.
Publishers want to move from a model where they get 50-55% of the price to a model where Google or Apple or Scribd give them 70-80% and yet they won’t pass on the savings to customers. Their own costs – printing, book returns, picking winners – all go down too. This is just greediness.
Amazon has done one exceptionally good thing by setting the $9.99 price for digital editions. Perhaps it will hold up in the face of all these new challenges.