Archive > December 2010

Google opens e-book store in challenge to Amazon

admin » 06 December 2010 » In Google, Tech News » No Comments

Google opens e-book store in challenge to Amazon

Google Inc. is making the leap from digital librarian to merchant in a challenge to Inc. and its Kindle electronic reader.

The long-awaited Internet book store, which opened Monday in the U.S., draws upon a portion of the 15 million printed books that Google has scanned into its computers during the past six years.

About 4,000 publishers, including CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster Inc., Random House Inc. and Pearson PLC’s Penguin Group, are also allowing Google to carry many of their recently released books in the new store.

Those publishing deals will ensure that most of the current best sellers are among the 3 million e-books initially available in Google’s store, said Amanda Edmonds, who oversaw the company’s partnerships. Millions more out-of-print titles will appear in Google’s store, called eBooks, if the company can gain federal court approval of a proposed class-action settlement with U.S. publishers and authors.

The $125 million settlement has been under review for more than two years. It faces stiff opposition from rivals, consumer watchdogs, academic experts, literary agents and even foreign governments, which worry that Google would get too much power to control prices in the still-nascent market for electronic books., which started its business as a seller of books over the Internet, is among the competitors trying to squelch the settlement. The U.S. Justice Department has advised the judge overseeing the case that the settlement probably would violate antitrust and copyright laws.

Books bought from Google’s store can be read on any machine with a Web browser. There are also free applications that can be installed on Apple Inc.’s iPad and iPhone, as well as other devices powered by Google’s own mobile operating system, Android.

But Google’s eBooks can’t be loaded on to the Kindle.

Electronic books are expected to generate nearly $1 billion in U.S. sales this year and climb to $1.7 billion by 2012 as more people buy electronic readers and computer tablets such as the iPad, according to Forrester Research. The research group expects a total of 15 million e-readers and tablets to have been sold in the U.S. by the end of the year.



Reading A Google eBook On My iPad

Earlier today, Google launched its eBook store with 3 million books, many of them free. I’ve been playing around with it on my iPad even though there is no iPad app yet. That is because you can read the books in your browser. iPad and Android apps will be coming soon, but if Google can make the browser reading experience just as compelling, people won’t need those apps. So far, however, the in-browser reader is a disappointment.

When you log into Google eBooks, your shelf is filled with three free eBooks: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Great Expectations, and Pride and Prejudice. You can read them in your browser on your iPad, on your phone, or on your laptop.

One of the best features of Google eBooks is that it remembers your place and starts you where you left off the next time you load the same book. It is also supposed to sync between devices, so that you can start reading on your laptop, pick up on your phone, and then finish off at night on a tablet. While this bookmarking feature seems to work fine within any given device, I find the syncing only works about half the time between devices. Half the time, it seems to cache the last page read on whatever device you are reading on instead. There is no way to manually set a bookmark in the browser reader either.

The HTML reader is basic but functional. On an iPad, you can read one page at a time vertically, or two pages horizontally. It lets you choose different fonts, and even read the original scanned version of the book (see screenshots below comparing the scanned version to the “flowing text” version). Google eBooks also maintains the orignal pagination as best it can, which is much better than the random-seeming “location” numbers you find on a Kindle. But there are no page-turning animations like you get in Apple’s iBooks app. That may sound like a trivial nitpick, but that swiping animation is one of those details which make digital books a pleasure to read in iBooks (my children fight over who is going to turn the next page when I read them the Winnie-the-Pooh book that comes with the Apple digital reading app).

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Pete Cashmore: The ‘Facebook killer’ won’t look like Facebook

admin » 02 December 2010 » In Marketing, Search Engines, Social Media » No Comments

Pete Cashmore: The ‘Facebook killer’ won’t look like Facebook

In the spring of this year, the “Facebook alternative” Diaspora achieved extensive media coverage — including an article in the New York Times — and raised tens of thousands of dollars in funding from online donors.

The pitch was an appealing one: In the midst of a privacy backlash at Facebook, Diaspora proposed a more private alternative to the leading social network.

But Diaspora is no Facebook rival, and history tells us it won’t make a dent in Facebook’s success.

A focus on privacy

Diaspora, which began sending out invites this week, attempts to outclass Facebook in privacy features and user freedom. Features include granular control over who sees your information, the ability to download your photos and the option to delete your account without any hassle.

With $200,000 now raised for the project, you’d think Diaspora was off to a great start. In reality, its impact on Facebook will be minimal.

There are plenty of ways for a social network to fail; the fact that your friends are already on Facebook and not Diaspora is the most obvious issue. But when it comes to toppling web giants, one factor is frequently overlooked: The replacement is usually radically different from its predecessor.
In other words: If Facebook is ever beaten, it won’t be by a site that tries to be “Facebook, but better.”


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