Google launches eBooks, cross-platform e-bookstore and reader

On Monday morning, Google officially unveiled its entry into the hotly competitve e-book market with an e-reader app called Google eBooks and a store called the Google eBookstore. The products are not new, but are rather a unification of many of Google's digital book efforts.

Like Amazon has done with its own Kindle platform, Google eBooks is a cross-platform solution for reading digital books across multiple devices. Currently, users can read Google eBooks in JavaScript-enabled browsers, in iOS and Android-powered devices, and on any e-reader supporting Adobe's eBook platform (which includes Barnes and Noble's Nook, Sony's Reader, and at least one of Borders' many e-readers.) There is not yet support for the Amazon Kindle, Kobo, BlackBerry, or Windows Mobile 7.

Users browse and download books in the Google eBookstore, which is currently 100% web-based. If you're using Google Books for Android, for example, hitting the "Get eBooks" button at the top of the screen launches the bookstore in a browser.

To buy Google eBooks, the user needs a Google Checkout account. However, Google's catalog of ebooks is also available through a number of partner resellers who accept other forms of payment. Alibris and Powell's Books, for example, accept PayPal and standard credit cards, so a Google Checkout account is not mandatory.

Google eBooks and the eBookstore were anything but surprise appearances on Monday. As far back as four years ago, Google's intention of selling e-books online was well-known, and it was originally going to be an extension of the Book Search project, which was itself an extension of the Google Print project.

Now that Google's commercial e-book endeavor is available to the public, the notion that the e-reader market is hardware driven should be more easily put to rest.

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