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

Summary: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.

Related:

CNET: eBook reader reviews

Topics: Mobility, Google, Hardware

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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