Redefining book ownership with Google e-books

Book stack

E-books take less space to store, but the tradeoff is "renting" rather than purchasing the book. Image: Flickr / wonderlane / CC-BY

Today, the Google e-bookstore officially opened for business. Google e-books are readable on many platforms and are stored “in the cloud” to maximize readability. This e-book venture may raise questions of customer service and ownership, however.

Google e-books available now

The Google e-bookstore has officially been launched as of Monday, Dec. 6. The Google e-book store offers “public domain” books for free download and current books for $9 to $20. There are about 4,000 publisher partners for the Google e-book service in the United States and 35,000 international publisher partners. Google e-books also have partnered with the American Booksellers Association, Powell’s and other book sellers. The Java-based e-reader displays the print page number and both ePub and PDF format for the books. When you purchase a Google e-book, it is stored on your Google account and can be accessed from any compatible device.

Google e-books and customer service

The Google e-bookstore is not the first time Google has tried to enter the retail market. The Google Nexus One was the first time Google tried to offer a retail product. Though the phone was relatively popular, there were lots of complaints about the customer service.  It is not likely that the Google e-books service will fail entirely on the good-or-bad customer service, but it will play a role in how popular the service proves to be.

Questioning ownership of Google e-books

The move of customers to the e-books market raises questions beyond just where money is being spent. Purchasing an e-book can be considered “renting” a copy of the book, rather than actually purchasing it. The book itself is still on the servers of a company, and you have rights to access it. This fuzzy line of ownership makes it tough to do many of the things that a physical book is good for. Not only can you not lend a book to a friend if you love it, but marking the pages or carrying it around without a battery is tough. Earlier this year, Amazon also made changes to e-books that had been already purchased. E-books purchased on the Google store or anywhere else can be very useful. In the end, though, printed books still definitely have their place.


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