There are a lot of things I’m skeptical/pissed about re:the Google Books settlement (and Google Books in general). This, however, strikes me as exactly right:
Speaking at the Tools of Change conference in Frankfurt, Amanda Edmonds, Google’s director of strategic partnerships, said the programme would be rolled out by June. Edmonds said one of the strengths of Google’s offering was that once bought, the e-book would exist in a “cloud library”, which could be accessed from potentially any device, including laptops, “smart phones” or e-readers. “As long as you can get onto the library, you can access it,” Edmonds said. “All books will live in the same library, so it doesn’t matter where you buy it or where you read it.”
I’m assuming that Google will also use Gears or some other implementation to allow for local storage and offline reading. You’ve got the tools; it’s easy to use them.
I like a lot about this model for e-books in general, but it seems particularly well-suited for Google Books, which is a scanned backlist of books not originally written or designed for digital reading.
NEW e-books, on the other hand, might benefit from some hardware-specific formatting. You can imagine an interactive book that’s designed to be read on the iPhone, or maybe on a Nintendo handheld or something. Not hastily scanned text, but a piece of tailored multimedia.
The short lesson is that if e-book sellers are going to try to lock their content to a particular console, they had damn well better make sure that the design and readability of the book take full advantage of that console. AND that console had better create a hell of an experience reading books. Otherwise the versatility of the screen-agnostic, read-anywhere cloud model just guts whatever competitive value you might offer in throwing up text on a screen.
This is also a lesson to creators – if you don’t want to be a part of the Google Books party, but want to sell e-books, your best bet is to offer something Google Books won’t match: that is, a book that isn’t just scanned/copied text on a blank screen.