Google Makes Its Ebookstore More Android-Friendly

Android users can now purchase e-books from the Android Market using a new feature that allows them to tap into Google’s ebookstore for Android-ready reading.

Google launched its ebookstore last December. Users can search its database by genre, and in addition to books for sale, it offers a section for free books. Books can be viewed on the Web or can be downloaded to smartphones with a free Google Books app.

While Google is offering a wide selection of out-of-copyright books for free, new titles will be sold, so the service will provide an additional revenue stream. This could be bolstered by e-music and e-movies for the Android.

Chatter on the blogosphere suggests Google is getting ready to sell movies and music through Android. The addresses, “http://market.android.com/movies/” and “http://market.android.com/music/” do not lead to active pages, but they redirect to the main Android apps page. Google could be readying them for future use. There have been rumors for a while about Google launching a music store.

Google did not respond to the E-Commerce Times’ request for comment by press time.

E-Books Are Getting Easy

Google is making it easier to access content in its ebookstore.

“It seems that Google is trying to bring more content directly to end users in a model more akin to Apple in its ability to federate offerings from other services,” Josh Martin, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics, told LinuxInsider. “It is a way for Google to better control the experience and ensure that users have access to certain types of content. Google Books had launched a few months prior, so this was primarily a way to make accessing content easier.”

While this is a new service, there are other ways to get e-books onto Android phones.

“This doesn’t move the needle much for Android, just as iBooks didn’t move the needle much for Apple,” said Martin. “There are a lot of apps with e-book capabilities, so it wasn’t as if Android was lacking an option — but another option for end-users is always a good thing.”

While e-books for Android may not give Google much of a competitive edge initially, the free books may hook readers who will go on to buy books.

“Google probably gets very little competitive boost from this,” said Martin. “There are lots of apps that provide access to e-books, and Google does have an extensive library of free content as part of the deal they negotiated with publishers some time ago. So making it easier for users to access a deep library of free content was probably a driving factor. If consumers get used to Google Books, they may want to buy content as well.”

Ease of use is a critical factor in nabbing users.

“It’s the easiest way to get content into the hands of the consumer,” said Martin. “Any other path to market would have to rely on HMTL or Web browsing, which isn’t proven as a way to sell content on the smartphone.”

Chasing Amazon and Apple

Android e-books is a logical move, given Amazon and Apple’s forays into the e-book market.

“With the success of the Kindle, and with Android’s closest competitor (iPad) already having an e-book market and reader, it was only a matter of time until Google added it to Android as well,” Allen Nogee, principal analyst for wireless technology at In-Stat, told LinuxInsider. “While other e-readers do certainly exist in Android, it is also important to have one from Google, as it’s likely that this will be the first, and possibly the only one which some users will download.”

While Google has thrown its hat into the e-book ring, the company hasn’t yet fully differentiated itself.

“Having an e-book market is important for Google to compete in this very competitive environment, but at the same time, Google will need to do much more if the company wants to separate its platform from Apple’s,” said Nogee.

Differentiation, however, may not be critical to success.

“In the PC business, I don’t think you will find much argument with Microsoft’s strategy of copying Apple’s benefits but doing it on a platform which was quite a bit cheaper,” said Nogee. “In hindsight, this was a plan that transformed Microsoft into the giant company that it is today.”

In order to compete with the iPad, Android tablets will need to have a lower price, but also have the features that customers want.

“While there is no question that this strategy worked with the PC, the tablet market has played out quite differently so far, and devices from the major players are actually more expensive in their unsubsidized form than is the iPad, which they are attempting to copy,” said Nogee. “If Android tablets are to succeed, they will need both innovative features and a very competitive price.”

Google needed an app in order to deliver content conveniently to all of the Android devices.

“Creating an App was required,” said Nogee. “Because even if Google includes the feature in future devices by including it in the operating system, older devices would still need to add it via an application. Many older Android devices can’t be upgraded to the newest version of Android.”

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