Google E-books Ready To Launch?

A little recap on my e-book bona-fides before beginning. I was made about $500/month selling ebooks on Amazon in the 2005/2006 timeframe, and often had titles in their Top 100. The only professional publishing conference I've attended in my life was the E-book 2000 conference put on by a few government agencies seven years ago. Invested about $700 and came away with a cloth shoulder bag I still use, and not much else. Still, I've written enough about e-books over the years that if you Google "Ebook Sales" or "E-book Sales" I come up #1 or #2, and I get the occasional inquiry from news reporters on the subject. And that's about it, because as my server stats testify, very few people are interested.

All of a sudden, I see an article in Yediyot Achronot (the main Hebrew daily in Israel, affectionately termed by Anglos, "The Last Idiot") that Google is preparing a revolution in E-books. The article is vague enough, essentially quoting from a London Times story which I ran down. The Times story was titled "Google plots e-book coup" and there wasn't any news in it. They quote the head of Google Book Search saying, "We are working on a platform that will let publishers give readers full access to a book online." Timely news? Let me quote myself for a change:

"Today (March 10th, 2006) I got the e-mail I've been waiting for since signing up with Google Print on the first day. Google will enable publishers to charge for downloadable and printable versions of books in the program that were previously only available for search. The split I just heard from them was 70% for the publisher, 30% for Google, which I hope will eventually replace the money I was earning publishing ebooks through Lightning Source." The second sentence was added in July, 2006 when Amazon dropped Lightning e-books.

I've been a fan of the Google Books program all along, and at the risk of be a double quoter, can point to the publisher section of the Google Books program where they blurb my line from this blog, "Google Book Search can only help book sales." When all the Lightning ebooks disappeared from Amazon, including thousands and thousands of titles from the major trades, I e-mailed my one human contact at Google, the PR person who contacted me about using the quote, and told them if they got off the stick and started selling all the ebooks they'd gotten publisher approval for, they could move into the vacuum left by Amazon. Moving at the speed of a huge corporation, it appears that seven months later, they are gearing up to do just that.

The real tip-off things are moving isn't the filler piece in the Times that got picked up by Yediyot. It's the e-mail I got from Google this morning asking me to testify, under the penalties of law, that I do indeed own the rights to the titles I have in the Google Books program for which I signed up to sell ebook versions nearly a year ago. The deadline to reply was February 6th, so maybe that will be the first day of the rest of the history of publishing. In honor of the occasion, I changed a couple lines in the first short story I ever wrote, initially about books on CD. Visit my dark side and read "Books Are Our Friends."

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