Google entered the crowded Canadian e-book market Tuesday, launching an online store that will compete for readers against established giants Amazon and Kobo.
The company says its new e-books store is distinctive because titles purchased there will be stored online and accessible on a variety of devices, including Android and Apple tablets as well as smartphones, PCs and compatible e-readers including the Kobo, Barnes & Noble's Nook and Sony's Reader.
Amazon's Kindle, however, won't be compatible with titles bought at Google's e-book store.
"When you buy a Google ebook you actually get it in an open format — you don't need to buy a device from us. You can read a Google e-book on any device that supports an open standard," Scott Dougall, director of product management for Google Books, said from California.
"You'll also have access to the global Google cloud — so wherever you go, your books will be there and accessible to you."
Hundreds of thousands of titles will be available for purchase at Google's e-book store — which launched in the United States in December 2010, and the United Kingdom more recently — in addition to more than two million public domain books available for free.
The Google store boasts partnerships with publishers including Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins, House of Anansi, Dundurn and McGill-Queen's University Press.
The company also teamed with two Canadian independent bookstores (Winnipeg's McNally Robinson and Campus eBookstore, based in Kingston, Ont.) to allow customers to buy books from those retailers' websites instead of Google.
While Dougall said Google's pricing would be competitive, a preliminary glance at its site Tuesday afternoon showed lower prices elsewhere for Lynn Coady's celebrated novel The Antagonist and Guy Vanderhaeghe's A Good Man.
Coady's book was listed at $28.84 through Google, but was more than $10 cheaper on Kobo's store. Vanderhaeghe's book was $14.39 through Google, and more than $5 less on Kobo.
Still, Google is counting on the fact that its broad selection and versatility will persuade Canadian customers to give its new service a chance.
"We do offer a massive catalogue of books, so for most people there will be more choice for books, we also support a broader range of reading devices," Dougall said.
"We have every major publisher in Canada and a lot of very small Canadiana publishers. We're very aggressive about finding every single book that we can find."