Google Enters the E-reader Market
Is the e-reader landscape about to change? With "Google it" being one of the most common response's to random questions, the extent of Google's integration into the daily lives of the masses and its power is unquestionable; it has been a major force in the search, discover and sale of e-books, but unlike e-book sales giants Amazon (with its Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (with its Nook), Google had no exclusive e-reading device that integrated directly with its eBookstore ... until now.
According to an article on Content.USAToday.com, "When Google launched its eBookstore back in December, it was possible to read Google eBooks on Android and iOS devices loaded with a Google Books mobile app, as well as on other devices with a Web browser [more than 80 devices in all, according to Google]. But an important page to this story was missing. Google's online book emporium wasn't built into any dedicated electronic reader in the same way that the Kindle bookstore is part of Amazon.com's Kindle reader or the Barnes & Noble online bookstore is part of its Nook devices."
In just a few days (July 17), Target stores nationwide, as well as Target.com, will be selling Google's iriver Story HD e-reader (using E Ink screen technology), "the first e-reader integrated with the open Google eBooks platform, through which you can buy and read Google eBooks over Wi-Fi," stated the Official Google Blog this week. "The Story HD is a new milestone for us," wrote Pratip Baerji, product manager, Google Books, on the Google Blog.
The device will retail for $139.99, priced on par with competing e-reading releases from B&N and Amazon, which generally are priced from $114 to $189. It reportedly is 7.5 inches (height) by 5.01 inches (width), is 0.37 inches deep, and weighs 7.30 oz. The screen is 6 inches, with a 768 X 1024 pixel resolution (an industry first?), and 16 grayscale color depth, according to the iriver Story HD website.
So, what impact will the device have on the e-reading market? "It is great to see Google come on to the market bringing more competitiveness through pricing and content offering," says David Renard, partner at media research and consulting firm mediaIDEAS. "If Google can establish itself as a viable third alternative to Amazon and Barnes & Nobles in the e-paper, e-reader space, then both consumers and publishers benefit."
One possible disadvantage Google may have lies in its current battles with publishers and authors on the process of scanning out-of-print books that are currently under copyright. The settlement process on several law suits worldwide continue to be a thorn in its side. "Google's Story offering today is very competitive in terms of price, but less so in terms of content. If they could include the out-of-print books that they have been digitizing for years it would create a greater competitive differentiator in the market. But due to the lack of a clear and final settlement with the book industry, this is not yet possible," notes Renard.
Google's success, notes Renard, "is linked to the availability of content that others do not have, as well as a seamless interactivity with Google's online universe."
You can learn more about the Story HD on the iriver website.