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15 Questions About Google Editions

The e-reader price war has started. In a couple of hours the prices of major e-reading devices, Kindle and Nook, have dropped under $200. It’s not a coincidence that this is happening right now.

Google Editions will launch in a couple of days, weeks at latest. And when it happens, the world will receive a simple message: you don’t need to buy an extra device to read books, use your current one as long as it has a browser.

Opposite to iBooks/iBookstore which was a blank page with a list of 5 publishers, Editions will start with a strong context created by existing Google service: Books.

Google announced that at the beginning 4 million books will be available via Editions. Nobody has started a new book venture this big. One day the biggest number of books will be available at the service which is a combination of a search engine, a catalog of 12 million digitized books and a biggest e-bookstore in the world.

This is making people think. In this article I will not ask about Editions’ impact on the e-book market, others will do it better. But there are many questions from a point of view of an average reader and self-publisher, which stay unanswered.

1. Will there be an option to download books as files?

GEditions will be a cloud-based service. Readers will have access to their virtual bookshelves, everything will be stored and synced via Google servers. Clear. On the other side, many public domain books can be currently downloaded from Books as pdf files. What we also know is that Editions will be DRM-ed by Adobe. Wouldn’t it be good to have the books downloadable as files, so that they could be opened on Adobe friendly e-readers like Nook?

2. What will be download formats to choose from?

Google supports pdf and ePub. Will there be any other file formats, if download is supported?

3. What about reading off-line?

I suppose Editions will not be just a bookstore, but also an e-book reading tool. If so, there must be a convenient way to read books off-line, otherwise it won’t make sense. So, at least a download to cache memory should take place.

Books are designed to free from daily problems, we need to have the chance to hide with them where there is no connection with the world at all.

4. Will there be an option to add third party books?

Google is famous for the open thinking. Unlike Apple with a closed iBooks ecosystem, Google has a power and attitude to bring everything together. I guess guys at Google may have the ambition to offer “the ultimate cloud bookshelf”. There are readers around who try to work out which store/device combination would be the best option to build personal libraries in the longer term. A place open to accept reader’s current collection of books is more than welcome. And please, let it be as easy as uploading files to Docs.

5. Will search engine get better?

If there are millions of books to search from it’s easy to get lost. Google is generally messy with search results – there are way too many of them and most matching results do not top the list. If search engine is not improved, looking for a particular book will drive people crazy – as it is now.

A bookstore is a different story than a search tool. People do not want to search for anything, they need to find what they’re looking for – and find it quickly.

6. Will authors/publishers have an option to skip DRM?

If a new book is added, will there be an option to leave a book unprotected? It’s possible with Amazon, why not here.

7. Will there be an integration between Books and Editions?

Editions will appear as a new Google service for all those who didn’t use Book Search Program (Books) before. Those who have the former account, like myself, are wondering about possible scenarios:

- two separate management panels

- one panel, possibly Books becoming a part of a new Editions panel

8. Will current Books publications have an option to be included in Editions?

Some publishers have already added their publications to Books. Will those books be granted the option to be sold in Editions or will they need to be uploaded once again?

9. Will publishers have an option to set up a price as “free”?

If I want to publish a free book, will I be able to do it with Editions? Can I set the price as “free” or “you set the price”?

10. What will be formats of upload?

Currently if you want to add a book to Books you need either to send a printed book via a post mail or upload a pdf file. Will there be a possibility to add files easier to prepare, like doc or rtf? Will there be an option to add ePub files?

11. Will the platform be available for international publishers?

The assumption is “yes”. Book Search is available to publishers from around the world, and they can earn money from AdSense already, so international payment and invoicing is not a problem. On the other side a huge new factor to be included is copyright law and how it differs across the globe.

12. Will there be a possibility to publish books in other languages than English?

Having in mind that the system is designed to work as a sponge and bring as many readers, publishers and resellers as possible, plus having in mind that Google is generally not that much concerned about the legal issues – will this option be available right at the beginning?

13. What tools will be available to spot and remove illegal stuff?

With a scale and possible international coverage a potential threat is that the level of copyright infringement will be more than average. People might upload the stuff they do not own rights to. The level of probability is much higher when it comes to non-English books.

For Editions, everyone with a Gmail account can be a publisher, that’s why there should be much better tools involved than currently used by other content distributors. A “report abuse” button is not enough.

14. Will the resources of Books and Editions merge?

On one hand it would be good, the reader is given a bigger choice and a full access to public domain free books. On the other hand we’ve got a problem with a “search engine diarrhea”.

15. Will books from Editions have a higher search rank?

When people land in an e-bookstore they already know what they want. But before they know it, they search – and Google is there with a new type of search engine answers – the ones which are already associated with a specific bookstore.

So a naive question to a search giant is: will Google Editions books come first when I browse the Internet for books?

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The more we’ll know about Google Editions the more questions we’ll have. I’m sure I’ve missed some. Please share yours. And if you already know the answers…