There have been plenty of attempts over the years to get e-books to go mainstream. Half a dozen companies have tried to sell electronic-book devices, and failed miserably. Sony has a new eReader available, but if it’s anything like its predecessors it will prove to be too bulky, too expensive and just too geeky for anyone but a few nerds to use with any regularity.


But that’s a hardware issue. Books as software — software you can carry around with you — makes a huge amount of sense, whether you read them on your Palm or BlackBerry or an eReader. And according to a piece in the Sunday Times, our friend Google could give that phenomenon a big boost with the plans it is working on right now. The story says that:

The internet search giant is working on a system that would allow readers to download entire books to their computers in a format that they could read on screen or on mobile devices such as a Blackberry.

Jens Redmer, director of Google Book Search in Europe, said: “We are working on a platform that will let publishers give readers full access to a book online.”

The proposed service would be integrated with Google’s Book Search service, which allows surfers to see a sample of a book and find places to buy it (publishers involved include Penguin, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster). I figure it should be as simple as a button that says “Click here to download this book,” but no doubt there are all kinds of DRM issues involved. Google’s Redmer said the project would likely become a reality “sooner rather than later”.

More on the topic from David Rothman at Tele-Read and the gang over at Slashdot — and Webomatica (who has worked for a couple of e-book providers) has some thoughts that are well worth reading as well.

About the author

Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

7 Responses to “Can Google make e-books work?”
  1. Is Google Plotting an e-Book Coup?Mathew Ingram / mathewingram.com/work: Can Google make e-books work?

  2. Very interesting. I would like to see how that turns out.

  3. […] Additional reading: Mathew Ingram, Mark Evans […]

  4. I wonder what the actual physical affects of this are going to be. Someone was recently telling me that the statistics for various forms of blindness are dramatically on the rise. While we all sit on our computers all day long with a glowing screen reflecting back at us, and with devices going smaller and smaller – it’s seems that at some point our eyes might start to revolt.

  5. Leigh, your point is valid. But if you we can make the text on those devices big enough our eyes won’t have much trouble on the long run, provided of course those devices don’t expose bad radiation like those old CRTs.

    We should start with our online reading anyway. Whenever you’re trying to read something, make the text as big as your eyes would like it to be. This works for me and I use Firefox for that.

  6. One probable feature in an Apple iPod (with added eBook functionaility) would be text to speech. Apple already sells audio books for the iPod. That might save tired eyes for a while.

  7. Although I’m a geek at heart I fail to see the point of e-books beyond a niche market. Eye strain issues aside, reading books on a screen cuts out the tactile pleasures of books–the feel of paper in your fingers, the satisfaction of turnin a page, that awesome smell of new books. A big loss IMO especially when the benefits of e-books are…what exactly? I can’t imagine reading War and Peace on your Blackberry would be that much fun.
    I know some of us get anxiety attacks whenever we have to step away from a screen, but really, it’s okay to unplug sometimes.

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