Access and smart DRM will make Google Editions a key player in Ed

Access and smart DRM will make Google Editions a key player in Ed

Summary: Bingo! A subscription-based service easily adapted to the needs of schools without forcing educational institutions to buy one more electronic device when we're already pushing towards 1:1 computing as fast as our little budgets will allow. Really, folks, I'm not a Google fanboy. They just do cool stuff.

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Almost 6 months ago I wrote a post about ways to push the e-textbook market forward, making the limitations of the then e-reader of choice (the Kindle) irrelevant. Screw the Kindle, I said...just give me an e-book App to use on a variety of devices and it won't matter that a Kindle isn't in color or that e-books can't readily be shared in a school setting like paper books can be.

Not surprisingly, Google agreed with me and announced its Book Project about a month later. As I reported then, quoting the Wall Street Journal,

A key difference [from Kindle] would be that the search giant aims to let Google Book Search users “buy access” to copyrighted books with any Web-enabled computer, e-reader or mobile phone.

Bingo! A subscription-based service easily adapted to the needs of schools without forcing educational institutions to buy one more electronic device when we're already pushing towards 1:1 computing as fast as our little budgets will allow. Really, folks, I'm not a Google fanboy. They just do cool stuff.

Today, Google announced further details about its Book Search, rebranded as Google Editions. According to Ars Technica,

The books will be accessible on the Web, says Google, meaning that any computer or gadget that has a browser will be able to get to the site. The way Google Editions is being pitched, it sounds as if there won't be strict DRM on the offerings—Google says that it's meant to make books accessible from anywhere and that they can be read offline after being downloaded.

Eschewing the proprietary format used in the Kindle makes Editions even more attractive to textbook publishers who have largely been dragging their feet in the e-book movement. Ars again notes,

If anything, it means that publishers that are reluctant to commit to certain proprietary formats (cough Kindle cough) will be able to make money on e-books now without waiting to see who wins the war.

Textbook publishers who have long sought to protect their multi-billion dollar industry will also have the potential to safeguard their profits more effectively with Editions. According to the New York Times,

Many publishers have been unhappy that Amazon and others have been charging just $10 for most e-books, a price that could hurt sales the more expensive hardcover. Google said publishers will get to set prices under its system.

Publishers will get nearly two-thirds of revenue for direct sales by Google.

While textbooks clearly wouldn't be selling for $10 on Amazon, the ability to set their prices, when so many textbook publishers sell directly to schools, should further encourage movement towards more widespread electronic publishing.

Between the free and open source textbook references that are becoming widely available and a solid shove in the right direction from Editions, we're getting much closer to the libraries of electronic textbooks that students will be able to access anytime, anywhere.

Topics: Hardware, Google, Mobility

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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5 comments
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  • Epub format is winning

    Just about every reader except the Kindle can display books in the .epub format. Unlike pdf, text in epub can be easily reflowed for different screen sizes and font sizes. Do you see any serious challengers to epub?

    Of course reflowing does give rise to a problem - what do you do when your teacher says "Turn to page 56"? Is there any standard to solve that? Maybe numbering all paragraphs? Or "Search for 'p56'" with tags for the start of every page in the printed version. Or how about bar codes that could be scanned, or book-local tinyurls that could be remembered and typed.

    To a lesser degree, different editions of printed books already suffer this problem and it's never been solved satisfactorily.
    Ed Burnette
    • Reinventing the wheel

      [i]Of course reflowing does give rise to a problem - what do you do when your teacher says "Turn to page 56"? Is there any standard to solve that? Maybe numbering all paragraphs? Or "Search for 'p56'" with tags for the start of every page in the printed version. Or how about bar codes that could be scanned, or book-local tinyurls that could be remembered and typed.[/i]

      Or how about the same tags that HTML has been using from the beginning. file://home/yagotta/the_old_man_and_the_sea#chapter_5

      [i]To a lesser degree, different editions of printed books already suffer this problem and it's never been solved satisfactorily. [/i]

      I call BS. HTML solves it beautifully -- and all of my e-books use HTML exactly that way. Non-issue unless you insist on reinventing the wheel.
      anonymous
  • RE: Access and smart DRM will make Google Editions a key player in Ed

    Let's hear it for open standards, and then, give us availability of a "purchased" (leased?) object across multiple personally-owned screens/devices.

    Maybe, here's where text-to-voice takes off. I can see the kids now, listening to the chapter for today's class on the bus on their way to campus...
    mplkn
  • Is the book publishing business going the way of the music business

    The availability of inexpensive mp3 player hardware, the standardized mp3 file format and p2p file sharing was a disruptive force that fundamentally changed the music business.

    The availability of inexpensive eBook reader hardware, the standardized ePub file format and p2p file sharing will fundamentally change the book publishing business.

    DRM is irrelevant. All DRM is always cracked.
    gmeader
  • RE: Access and smart DRM will make Google Editions a key player in Ed

    "They just do cool stuff." I wouldn't quite put it that way, but Google does seem to
    have an uncanny knack of supplying something that satisfies a lot of different
    customer needs in some very unique and creative ways.

    But I think if any company addresses itself to the question "what does the customer
    want and need?" and "how can I supply that?" if they do it successfully the money
    will just keep rolling in. But if they address the question "how can I be devious and
    control and screw the customer" the income will eventually head in a different
    direction.
    bigpicture