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Google ebookstore – an early review

December 7, 2010

The other shoe has dropped. As we all knew would happen, Google has now entered the ebook market, and with their usual “we do it bigger and better” approach. They already offer 3 million titles that work on a variety of platforms, including Android, iPods/Phones, Web browsers, and Nook/Sony hardware. If the iPad wasn’t already a Kindle killer, this will likely be the blow that brings down Amazon’s ebook palace, as if predicting the demise of a hermetically sealed and proprietary technology in 2010 required much sagacity.

I wrote an article early this year where I said that ebooks remain the eternally next big thing, never quite coming into their own, or at least not as quickly and thoroughly as their backers might wish. Google’s entry into the fray may alter the equation in ways that only a firm worth gabillions can rewrite paradigms. That remains to be seen, of course, and one still cannot get around the fact that many people do not like reading from a screen. As someone who actually does, I am beginning to rethink my own usage of ebooks as I notice that my eyes are constantly dry and irritated. Our habits may change quickly, but biology always smacks us in the head sooner or later.

Google’s new bookstore is something of a half-baked enterprise, which surprises me. On the one hand, it has Google’s characteristic clean design, which allowed me to go from browsing to reading a sample in about six seconds and with a couple of clicks. Kudos to them there. That said, the ability to manage one’s collection is a bit weak. I clicked to add a sample to my personal bookshelf, and when I consulted said bookshelf, I discovered that it had four titles on it.

The irony here is that I cannot stand Jane Austen and really have little interest in Dickens. Nothing against Carroll, but really, why are those other three titles there? I certainly did not put them there. Worse, I cannot figure out how to get rid of them. They may be some carryover from some testing I did with Google Book Search, but at any rate, try as I might, they are stuck.

When I click the name of the shelf or its count in the rubric My library, it takes me to this page

which obviously doesn’t even have a valid path to standard Google CSS files attached to it. Pretty weak stuff from Google, to be honest. It also lacks any options that would allow me to edit the list.

These are fairly minor annoyances, but it certainly makes me think twice about plunking down money to buy a book from Google.

A more serious concern is whether Google worked out global licenses with the publishers taking part in this new venture. In other words, will a book purchased from an IP address in the United States work in another country? Alas, they do not, which does give me grounds to pen another anti-DRM rant. While that makes me happy, I could scream that once again, digital content is being fouled up by geography, which ought to have nothing to do with it. Legally purchased, legally mine. See? The rants just flow. If you have experienced DRM rage, you know how it feels.

Google can and surely will fix the technical issues, but publishers are a tough lot, even for Google. Until I can buy an ebook and access it from any IP address on the planet, no sale. How ironic that good old analog books are actually more globally accessible than ebooks. You would think that publishers and booksellers would get that, and adapt accordingly. Then again, that would be to expect rational behavior from rights holders, and after the examples of the RIAA and MPAA, I should know better than to do that.

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8 Comments
  1. December 11, 2010 09:53

    Thanks for a helpful review! But really, you need to learn to love Jane. To not love her is just wrong ūüôā

    • Dale permalink*
      December 15, 2010 09:38

      I suppose I should read an Austen novel before condemning her, but I just can’t get past the Hugh Grantiness of it.

  2. Robbie permalink
    December 11, 2010 15:33

    If you go to your bookshelf and hover over the cover image the “bookcard” will show up and one of the choices is remove…Click it and voila, all gone…It may come back…I haven’t experimented enough…

    • Dale permalink*
      December 15, 2010 09:38

      Thanks! That did the trick, but the mouseover popup is a bit jumpy. Still cannot figure out how Jane Austen ever made it in there, though.

    • August 31, 2011 11:26

      No cmoplatins on this end, simply a good piece.

  3. Tyson permalink
    April 4, 2011 15:23

    Hey, I accidently posted this here. Please ignore these ignorant comments of mine. Thank you.

    • Dale permalink*
      April 4, 2011 15:26

      No problem. Cleaned up the comments. Thanks for letting me know it was in error.

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