6a00d83452242969e200e55005dca58834-150wi.jpgAs I re-read this recent NY Times article about Google’s possible role in the ebook retailer world I started thinking more about how the whole marketplace could shake out. It’s important to note that Google Editions is a program that’s been talked about for a couple of years but still hasn’t materialized. The latest rumor is it will launch very soon…pretty much the same rumor that’s been around the last couple of years! Nevertheless, at some point I’m convinced Google will produce an ebook retailing platform and it’s sure to have an impact on our industry.

Google Editions is said to be cloud-based and hardware agnostic. Great so far. After all, I often worried about being locked into Amazon’s Kindle platform each time I bought another $9.99 book for it. To Amazon’s credit though, they’re heading away from their original locked-in hardware model where you had to own a Kindle to enjoy a Kindle ebook. Most of the books I read on my iPad now are from the Kindle store, so kudos to Amazon.

The NY Times article linked to above talks about how Google could change the game by cozying up to the independent booksellers. Interesting idea. I’ve always thought the independents should have banded together years ago to create an uber virtual bookstore chain, both online and as brick-and-mortars. Think of it as a federation of indies. Networked together they’d stand a much better chance of competing with Amazon, B&N and Borders, for example.

Here’s one way this could work: You search for a print book on an indie’s website. They don’t have it but the indie two down street does. In this new federation of independents, Google ties everything together on the back end as it helps them refine their sites and search results to show that book is available down the street at indie #2. Indie #1 gets a finders fee on the resulting transaction. Again, everything is handled with a state-of-the-art Google back-end system.

Extend that same thinking to a combined online presence, all backed by Google to do things like provide the best local information (depending on the customer’s IP address or what’s being searched for). In other words, take what’s always made the indie stores so attractive (extensive local knowledge and specialization) and bring it online, not individually as they are today, but as one super-sized independent. Think of it as all these stores banding together with Google to create a large Amazon-like presence but with an indie personality, one that changes on the fly from one region to another based on where you are and what you’re looking for. That sounds like a compelling model to me.

So what does the ebook retailing landscape look like for the next couple of years? First of all, the Kindle will continue to take on more meaning as a bookstore rather than a hardware device. In fact, as I predicted last November, I believe Amazon will completely abandon the Kindle hardware space by late 2012. The only adjustment I’d like to make to that prediction is that the iPad (and the upcoming flood of Android-based tablets) will cause it to happen even sooner.

Next, Google will probably cozy up with indies but Amazon’s Kindle apps will help it expand onto all platforms. Google, however, will be more aggressive on the advertising front and (finally!) give book publishers the option of selling different versions of their products (regular-priced ones without ads and lower-priced ones with ads, for example). For all you anti-book ad people, please remember that there will still be versions without ads; nobody will force you to buy books with ads! For cheapskates like me who have no problem with ads everywhere else, we’ll save a few bucks along the way.

Meanwhile, Apple has to decide whether to create their own iBooks apps for Windows and Android devices. That’s the only way they’ll truly be competitive with Amazon and Google. If they stick with apps just for Apple products they’ll really stunt their growth for the future. I’m thinking this won’t happen though. After all, can you imagine how hard it would be for Steve Jobs to green-light development of an iBooks app for an Android phone?!

Editor’s note: the above is reprinted, with permission, from Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog. PB


  1. Once again you are looking at the world through Wikert colored glasses. Everything comports with your view of the world or it doesn’t exist.

    You decided months ago that the iPad was the Jesus tablet, and abandoned your Kindle. Perfectly within your rights. but then you tell us that the Kindle is dead and will be dead by 12/31/2012.

    READ MY LIPS- Amazon will NOT abandon the Kindle by that date or even by the end of 2015. Mark it on your calendar for 1/1/2013 and e-mail me back your apology.

    Your view of the world is not the only one. Don’t impose it on us!

  2. Um, this here thing is a blog. The author can only “impose” his “view of the world” if you insist on reading his writings and taking it as gospel.

    And he’s only one blogger out of many at Teleread. Ya don’t like it? Find somebody else to read who you agree with 100%. Sounds a bit boring to me but to each his own…

  3. Joe, I don’t think Amazon deserves any kudos until it adopts an ePub standard that any device maker can use. I appreciate that you find reading on your iPad being like in nirvana, but I am one of those who wants a completely separate device — single function, to boot — for reading an ebook, not another computer form, and I don’t want it to be a Kindle. I work all day at my computer and see no pleasure in having to continue to work at it to read for pleasure rather than business.

    But your idea for the indie competitor to Amazon is definitely worth pursuing further. I wish I had thought of it first :).

  4. Why is everyone so excited by the cloud? Sure it’s great for whatever hardware you have, but it is horrible for depending on connectivity. There are so many places in the world that has poor, slow, expensive or even absent wireless or wired connections. The cloud is not so great if you can’t reach it. Also, the cloud is not dependable, often loosing servers (and data), or even bankruptcy. Further, privacy and security are issues. Where is your data? Who has access to it? Is some sort of government peeking into your reading habits? All of these issues are important and often glossed over by cloud lovers.

  5. Any journalist who indulges himself in predicting the future of a whole new world after only a year or two and a few fledgling products ought to know better. It’s a mug’s game and Mr Wikert is in danger of exactly that.

    The idea and experience of reading books on an electronic device is a brand new one, and has only been experienced by a tiny part of the ready public … and only for a very short time. The first fledgling eReaders have been launched and the whole business model of producing eReaders, selling ebooks through them and the business pileline model are all brand spanking new.
    No one know where it will go. No one can. If they did they would be about to make a giga-fortune.

    For myself I simply cannot follow the zero sum game of the iPad and Kindle. They are completely different animals. There will be millions of people who have no interest in, or need for, an iPad-like device. There will be millions who love their Pad/Slate and will do all of their reading on it, and there will be millions who love to have both.
    eReaders will become far far cheaper to manufacture – and also they will become super light weight.
    eBook sellers will start giving them away as bundle deals.
    Publishers will not be allowed (especially by the EU) to restruct how their ebooks are sold. They will have to supply all eBook Sellers with their eBooks in the same way hard copy books can be bought in many many online and on street bookstores.
    A whole new model of Publisher will emerge in the next two years. They will be run in a far more efficient way and without all the bureaucratic flotsam that the existing publishing houses carry. They will create highly interactive eBook sites allowing readers to sample all eBooks in the form of a full chapter and will be able to post and communicate on forums based on views, book styles and age to name only a few.

    How it will all end up no one knows. I only know one thing. I wish I had the capital to dive in to this exciting new world.

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