OK, so the great and powerful GOOG probably didn't give a lot of thought to my model of electronically distributing textbooks for use on commodity netbooks when they announced their upcoming e-book initiative. However, even if they can't crush Amazon in the consumer space, where the Oprah-loved Kindle makes lots of books available on an interesting little device, accessible via cellular (or Whispernet, as it's called) anytime at very reasonable prices, Google's plans should earn it a solid place in the multi-billion dollar textbook market.
As the Wall Street Journal notes,
Google, Mountain View, Calif., said it aims to build a "digital book ecosystem" to allow partner publishers to sell access to their titles, even if buyers don't have dedicated book readers such as Amazon's Kindle or Sony Corp.'s (SNE) Reader...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.
Suddenly, the lack of color e-ink devices becomes irrelevant; purchase access to a textbook and view it on your iPhone, your netbook, or your desktop (or your parents' desktop when you go home to do laundry for the weekend). View it in color. Copy and paste into documents on said computer (or better yet, into your Google Docs on any computer). Look at images and diagrams at full size or blown up on that 21" monitor in your dorm room (or on a projector in a classroom).
Maybe I'm dreaming, but it doesn't seem much of a stretch to imagine school-wide licensing deals for texts, does it? Google Edu Apps already bring a huge number of services under an educational institution's domain. What if all of the books you needed in your high school were licensed and available in the same way as a shared Google Doc, at a drastically lower price than those dead tree texts that fall apart every 5 years?
This won't kill Kindle; Kindle is far too trendy (and genuinely handy for consumers who actually like to read). However, the possibilities in educational/textbook markets are really extraordinary. Even if Google did steal my idea.