Google will enter the e-book market by the end of the year, a move that will allow users to purchase and read publications online even if they don't own a dedicated reading device like Amazon's Kindle or the Sony Reader.
Publishers who have partnered with Google — like Cambridge University Press — will be able to sell books that can be read on any web-enabled device, including smartphones or netbooks, Tamara Micner, spokeswoman for Google, told CBC News in an interview.
This approach stands in contrast to that used by Amazon, one of the other major players in the e-book market, which requires would-be readers to own a Kindle, a device that is not currently available in Canada.
Significantly, Google would allow publishers to set the price of the book, also in contrast to Amazon's model. Readers would not be able to download the books — they will either have to be online or cache the publications.
Amazon sells books on the Kindle at its own prices, which are often well below the prices established by publishers.
Google's model is similar to the one used by Scribd.com, which opened an online store in May that allows publishers and authors to set their own prices for their books. Scribd.com says it attracts over 60 million readers to its site each month.
Google expects to make the first book available on its site by the end of the year. Micner wasn't able to give a specific date.
Her comments came a day after Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships at Google, spoke of the move into the e-book market at a book publishing conference in New York.
"This time we mean it," he said, speaking of Google's venture, which isn't completely unexpected. The company had mused in the past year about jumping into the e-book market.
Earlier this year, Google reached a legal settlement agreement with authors and publishers to make more than seven million books scanned from university libraries available on its book search program. Google has also made 500,000 scanned public-domain books available to Canadians on the mobile version of Google Book Search.