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Google Likes to e-Read

From the “anything you can do I can do better” files: Google Inc. said this week that it’s getting into the e-book biz, positioning itself to take on Amazon.com and the highly touted Kindle e-reader. The Google difference? No e-reader required.

Publishers will be able to use Google’s “digital book ecosystem” service, which will launch by the end of the year, to sell e-books direct to consumers for download to any Web-capable handset, computer or e-reader.

Amazon’s e-book service is meanwhile linked to its proprietary (and expensive) Kindle e-reader, as well as a Kindle app for the iPhone.

The e-book landscape is poised to become a big battleground, according to Forrester Research.

“Amazon.com, leveraging its position as a dominant book retailer, has catalyzed the market for e-books, but that’s just the beginning of the e-reader revolution,” said Sarah Rotman Epps, Forrester analyst. “Competitors will attack Amazon’s market position by launching new features, expanding content beyond books, dominating markets outside the U.S., reducing costs, and improving relationships with publishers.”

While frequent book readers drive device and content sales today, Forrester predicts that the next five years will see an explosion of the e-reader textbook market (an area the Kindle DX is attacking, incidentally), and in 10 years, the market will be driven by businesses going green in government, education, health and other sectors.

“With retailers, mobile operators and device manufacturers all vying for a piece of the e-reader action, publishers should proactively shape their own e-reader opportunity – or miss their last best chance to control their own destiny,” she said.


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