Google Getting in the eReader Game
As a market, ebooks and ereaders have gone from being relatively simple with a few major players to tangled web of content providers and hardware manufacturers of varying compatibility in just a few short years. The competition promises to keep prices low, features competitive and digital-rights management minimal, but it’s become overwhelming for casual consumers to step into the market and look beyond the staid pillars of Amazon of Barnes & Noble.
This economy entropy is poised to get even worse (or better, depending on your perspective) with Google announcing that they have partnered with iriver to bring the first ever ereader integrated with their open Google eBooks platform.
Called the Story HD, iriver’s ereader most closely resembles a third generation Kindle, with a full QWERTY keyboard at the bottom, integrated dictionary, built-in Wi-Fi and the standard-issue 6-inch eInk screen that we have all come to know and love. It’s a full ounce lighter than the Kindle, but is ever so slightly thicker. With two GB of storage, it can hold half the books that a Kindle can, but honestly, how many people are actually running against that capacity limit?
The real story is the integration of the Google eBookstore. So far as we can tell, it hasn’t made a tremendous splash in the ebook market, mostly due to the fact that at just eight months old, it’s not well-integrated with the most popular eReaders on the market. There are definitely lots of novelties to be found with it. The Doodle Mode on their browser reader is a nice digital distraction for kids, who can color, do mazes and the like.
Google has also done an admirable job promoting their affiliate program. While authors can certainly make money by setting up accounts with Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the Google eBookstore seems to have better terms for authors and is ubiquitous in the book blogosphere. They’re even making an impact on old-fashioned book stores. Politics and Prose is one of the more popular independent book stores in Washington D.C., for instance, and they have integrated Google eBooks onto their homepage to give eReader addicts a way to support their local establishment without having to clutter their house with dead tree editions.
Google is definitely carving out a niche, but whether this iriver reader is a serious part of their long-term strategy remains to be seen. At $140 and retailing only at Target, it doesn’t seem destined for success, but time will tell.