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Google unveils its eBookstore

Joining a suddenly crowded market for e-books, Google today unveiled its long-awaited online book store. Formerly known as Google Editions during its development phase, Google eBookstore boasts over 3 million books that can be read on “just about any device with an Internet connection.”

In preparation for the launch, Google has cut deals with a host of top-tier publishers, including Random House, McGraw-Hill, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Books, and MacMillan. This has given it access to many of the titles currently on The New York Times Best Sellers list, as well as “hundreds of thousands” of other in-print books and a huge number of free public domain works.

Rather than positioning it as a stand-alone web site – like its recently-launched Boutiques.com – Google has incorporated Google eBookstore into its menu of options under the regular Google home page. The idea is that customers can access the store from virtually any device with a web browser and sign-in using their regular Google account.

As well as e-books, Google eBookstore features links to download the necessary reading apps for a variety of different platforms, including Android devices; the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; PCs and Macs; and Nook and Sony e-readers. Eventually, Google hopes to be able to sync across all devices, so you will be able to start reading a book on a PC, for example, and later pick up right where you left off on an iPhone.

As well as the top-selling e-books, the eBookstore home page displays “New arrivals”, “Top-rated”, and “Best of the free”, which is a selection of the public domain books. Today’s featured books under the free category are A Tales of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Pride and Prejudice, and Moby Dick.

When it comes to pricing, Google eBookstore appears to be competitive with the other major online stores. Most of the Times’ best- sellers are listed between $9.99 and $14.99, although a few have bargain-basement prices of less than $5.

“We've set up a pricing algorithm to be competitively priced with the going rate in the market,” said James Crawford, director of engineering for Google Books. “We're not trying to buy our way into the market (by under-pricing), but we don't want anybody to say that we have higher prices.”

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