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.
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.