Google's e-book effort will need a better horse than iriver Story HD

Google is in the e-reader game, but there's a long way to go. Google's real e-book horse is likely to be tethered to those Chrome browsers and Android devices in the field.

Google finally has its e-books platform integrated with an e-reader, but will have a big hill to climb to compete with the incumbents, notably Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

On its blog, Google said the iriver Story HD e-reader will be available at Target stores across the U.S. The $139.99 device looks solid enough---it has e-Ink, 3 million free books and connections to other devices.

Gallery: iriver Story HD vs. Kindle Wi-Fi

The problem is that this device is priced the same---or more---than some flavors of the Kindle and Nook. Barnes & Noble already has new a baby Nook on the market. Amazon is due for its announced refresh sometime this summer or early fall if history is any guide. Gloria Sin gets to the real question: Is Google too late to the game to compete with Amazon or even Barnes & Noble’s e-collection and established partnerships with publishers?

The quick answer is that Google is late to the game. Both the Kindle and Nook are widely distributed and tethered to their respective e-book stores at low prices.

So what's going to entice me to buy an iriver device at the Target bake-off? It's just like the iPad puzzle for rivals in the tablet market. You match the leaders on price, but you need to even go lower to get a look. The iriver price should be $50. Subsidize the device with Google ads and maybe it's $25. The comparison test at retail just won't hold up with this e-reader.

Google noted that the iriver Story HD is the first device with Google Books integration and more will come. "The Story HD is a new milestone for us, as iriver becomes the first manufacturer to launch an e-reader integrated with Google eBooks," said Google.

OK, Google is in the game, but there's a long way to go. You almost wonder why Google is bothering with a dedicated e-reader other than to say it has one. Google's real e-book horse is likely to be tethered to all those Chrome browsers and Android devices in the field.

Disclosure: I wrote an e-book on the business of media on the Amazon Kindle Single platform.


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