Add another playing into the e-books arena.
Google joined earlier this week with its launch of Google eBooks. The site looks to go up against Amazon and its popular Kindle e-books store, though Google isn’t offering an e-book reader for sale just yet.
the Google eBookstore that launched Monday offers titles that can be read on a multitude of devices, from smartphones and tablets to e-readers and laptops — every major one except the Kindle.
“This is a big threat to Amazon,” says Allen Weiner, an analyst at researcher Gartner.
While Kindle is the top-selling e-book reader, its penetration is dwarfed by the number of Android phones in use alone — about 40 million this year, according to investment firm Piper Jaffray.
Combine that with next year’s shipments of Android phones and tablets, as well as the iPhone/iPad universe of more than 100 million devices, and “This is a critical juncture for Amazon,” says Weiner.
Why enter the e-book business now? “You could say we’re late, or that the timing is just right,” says Scott Dougall, Google’s director of product management for Google eBooks. “The fact is, e-books are just starting to take off, and we want to make books more accessible.”
Amazon will sell an estimated $248 million in digital books this year, according to a projection by Credit Suisse Group, and it holds a 72% share of digital book sales.
But that could drop to 35% by 2015, estimates Credit Suisse, because of competition from Apple and Google.
The idea of the Kindle so far has been that consumers buy books for the device, which uses a proprietary Amazon system, and take their Kindle with them wherever they go.
Google’s concept is that in the world of smartphones, tablet computers and laptops, consumers may start their day with a chapter on a laptop, continue to read on their commute with a smartphone, and perhaps end the day reading on an iPad. A reader’s Google e-book is stored in the Internet cloud and will pick up at the page where she left off.
An Amazon statement Monday, however, indicated it may already have countermoves in the works to broaden its base. It said that, like Google, it plans to offer Kindle e-books for other devices and on the Web.
“Stay tuned,” the statement said.