Google Exec Keynotes Virtual Conference
A special keynote interview about the anticipated launch of Google's "Google Editions" digital book program kicked off the book track of the 2010 Publishing Business Virtual Conference & Expo, held live Sept. 16 and available on-demand until Dec. 20. Mark Nelson, Google's strategic partner manager and international lead, was interviewed by Debbie Stier, senior vice president, editor-at-large and director of digital marketing, Harper Collins, on the program's details and the implications for publishers and book-sellers.
Nelson began by explaining Google's mission "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." In regard to materials only available in print, this has meant creating an infrastructure to bring this content online via scanning the material and indexing it for keywords to facilitate discovery online.
Expanding the Google Books Partner Program
The Google Editions program—through which publishers can sell digital versions of their books—will be a part of the Google Books Partner Program, in which 35,000 publishers currently participate. The program is free to publishers, with the "vast majority" of Google's revenue generated from advertising, according to Nelson.
More than 12 million books from more than 130 countries currently make up the Google Books Program, and are available to users through relevant searches through Google.com or the books.google.com portal. Sources for these books include Google's publishing partners, its library partners (which currently total 42) and the public domain.
Users' access to the contents of these books depends on both the source of the content and the copyright. For instance, users have full access to the contents of books that are freely available in the public domain, while a Google publishing partner controls access to the amount of content a user can access from its books at one time, with a minimum of 20 percent of a book available for preview. Typically, Nelson explained, users see about nine to 14 pages of a book.
Enter Google Editions
Adjacent to publishing partners' books in Google Books is a "Get This Book" section, which provides links for users to purchase the book. The first link, said Nelson, is always devoted to the publisher's product page for that book, with subsequent links devoted to online retailers selected by Google based on the user's location—for example, a user in the United Kingdom might be provided with a link to Amazon.co.uk, while a user in the northwestern United States might be provided with a link to Powells.com. With the launch of Google Editions (the exact launch date has still not been determined), a "Buy Google Edition" button will be added to these choices, through which users will be able to purchase a digital edition of the book through Google.com.
Other online retailers also can sell Google Editions e-books using a free API available on Google's site that retailers then can imbed into their own Web pages. "The idea is creating a vibrant marketplace for e-books," said Nelson. "Today's e-book market is fragmented … We're trying to cut horizontally against this fragmented market."
Google Editions e-books will be available in the industry-standard .ePub format. Participating publishers may either provide Google with .ePub files, or Google will convert other formats to .ePub at no cost.
Users who purchase Google Editions e-books will be able to access those books by logging into their browser-based Google account. An advantage of purchasing e-books this way, Nelson said, is that the experience is "cloud-based," meaning that the books can be accessed and read on any device that can synced to the user's Google account—any computer or device with a browser, on smartphones through a native app, on a legacy e-reading device, etc. Once purchased, books then can be read online or offline.
The ability to read these books on retailer-specific e-reading devices, such as Barnes & Noble's Nook or Amazon's Kindle, depends on whether or not that individual retailer decides to participate in the program, Nelson noted.
E-books sold through Google Editions will follow a pricing model that is similar to the print world, Nelson said, with Google receiving a portion of the revenues whether the book is sold through Google or a third-party retailer. Google and other retailers also have the right to discount these books. However, Nelson stated, "Google does not have a proprietary device it's trying to sell by driving [e-book] prices to the floor. It's not in our interest to drive prices way down and devalue that content."
To participate in Google Editions, publishers must be a member of the Google Books Partner program (books.google.com/partner).