The NYT reported on Google’s continuing discussions with publishers of their plans to sell online access to the full text of some books currently available for searching and limited reading in their Partner Program with publishers. An offline component, similar to Google Gears, will allow purchased books to be cached in the browser. And Google has indicated to publishers that they will allow some form of limited printing (done a single page at a time) and limited copy and paste privileges, probably in the range of 20 percent of a book’s content.
Now dubbed Google Edition, this initiative is the latest face on what Google announced in March 2006 as “perpetual online access” and has been discussing with publishers ever since. Now, Google director of strategic partnerships Tom Turvey tells the Times, “this time we meant it,” with a launch due before the end of the year. As reported in our own account of a meeting on Friday about the GBS settlement, Google’s Adam Smith said “we’re going to push ahead as quickly as possible” with a “consumer purchase model and other models.”
One major aspect of Edition not yet reported is that it will allow online retailers to sell the digital books directly from their site, with Google playing the role of electronic distributor. The selling feature is linked to Preview, the program that already lets retailers present the ability to browse inside Partner books.
So Powells.com, Borders.com, Buy.com and other retail partners, both in the US and internationally, will be selling what could be hundreds of thousands of ebooks on behalf of Google and publishers–and publishers will be able to sell the Google Editions directly through their own sites. Territorial rules will be attached to each book, but Google will sell throughout the world when rights are available. (Due to banking and payment regulations, they can only pay publishers in about six countries, where Google Checkout is authorized to make direct payments.) While it’s not yet known how many books will be offered through the program, Google’s current Partner program comprises approximately 600,000 titles from North America (and publishers are likely to have the necessary electronic rights on only a portion of that body of work.)
Publishers Lunch from Google’s initial announcement in March, 2006