GBS: Google Editions Coming This Month

Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, Jessica E. Vascellaro, and Amir Efrati, Google Set to Launch E-Book Venture, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 1, 2010:

The long-delayed venture—Google executives had said they hoped to launch this summer—recently has cleared several technical and legal hurdles, people close to the company say. It is set to debut in the U.S. by the end of the year and internationally in the first quarter of next year, said Scott Dougall, a Google product management director. …

Google says it is on a mission to reach all Internet users, not just those with tablets, through a program in which websites refer their users to Google Editions. For example, a surfing-related blog could recommend a surfing book, point readers to Google Editions to purchase it, and share revenue with Google. Through another program, booksellers could sell Google Editions e-books from their websites and share revenue with Google.

The store, which the search engine proposes has said will feature more than 500,000 titles, will be device-agnostic, meaning that texts will be readable on any device with a browser.— Google Editions Ebook Store Ready For Launch By Year-End, eBrandz

According to this, you must have a browser to read your Google ebook, in other words you have purchased a virtual object in the domain known as “Google Editions”.

The 500,000 number will quickly grow if the ASA is passed and Google is state sanctioned to steal the works of others.

Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia— The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me

Here’s another article, which purports to have inside info (though not much of it):

And another article with more details:

Note that it says Google Editions has not only managed to garner 400,000 titles to sell without any need for the proposed Settlement, but also, will manage to track and sell them without any need for the proposed Book Registry.

In case anyone did not know: Bookstores do not need Google Editions to sell e-books. E-books are already widely available to bookstores from publishers and wholesalers. I just waded through my wholesaler’s data entry form for new books, and there are numerous formats I can choose from a drop-down menu, including downloadable as well as on hard media. However, what Google has done here is set itself up as a large-scale book industry wholesaler of e-books, specifically.


However, what Google has done here is set itself up as a large-scale book industry wholesaler of e-books, specifically.
All of the articles present Google as a retailer, not a wholesaler —- am I missing something? (you can take that as a rhetorical, rather than a probing question —- <wink>)

The big change I see in this is that the major publishers which have signed on seem to be making a switch from the “DRM will save us from piracy” mindset to the “customer convenience is selling point” mindset. Since DRM for text is pretty much impossible, anyway, I think this is a wise business decision.

Ooops, posted the last post as RonK instead of with full name, sorry…. it’s been a while.


These articles say Google is selling books to retailers, meaning Google is a wholesaler. If those Google sales were direct to consumers, Google would not need any of the bookstore participation these articles are trumpeting.



Also I see nothing in those articles about the publishers not using DRM. I would imagine each publisher would firmly retain the right to make its own decisions on the matter.

Here’s some more data, BUT:

Google appears to be negotiating different deals separately with the largest publishers.

The sign-up-directly-with Google agreement is, I believe, aimed at micropresses, self-publishers, and authors whose e-rights have reverted to them (note, the Settlement, if approved, would likely have the effect of transferring the latter back to the publishers despite the contract). This agreement does not necessarily have the same terms as the big-publisher deals, which as far as I know have not been revealed to the trade.

These are all opt-in arrangements, outside the proposed Settlement. The Settlement now seems very clearly intended to seize the works of copyright holders who do not opt into any of these arrangements and protect Google against more lawsuits in that event.

An article about Google-as-wholesaler:

Despite the fact that Ingram is described in this article as an “offline retailer,” they accept web orders from bookstores and may even compel them these days. For years, they’ve used an online database system called iPage for publishers to enter their own book data. Bookstores use iPage to read the data the publishers enter (including descriptions, cover images, and review quotes as well as basic facts), and to check on how many copies Ingram has in which warehouse, how many are on order from the publisher to each warehouse, and other data.

I haven’t sold through Baker & Taylor for several years but I’d be very surprised if they don’t accept web orders.

Ingram and B & T came to dominate the US market not only through a large selection, but because they supply free databases to bookstores. Bookstores typically order from only one or two wholesalers (instead of from umpteen publishers to simplify their accounting. They have not, traditionally, especially cared about books not carried by Ingram or B & T.

Book industry wholesalers do not sell to consumers, only to bookstores and other kinds of retailers. However, it seems that Google will sell to consumers also, meaning they will make a significantly higher profit on copies sold to consumers than bookstores will (because they will get a wholesaler discount for all sales).

Another article with a slightly different angle:

Google is going to turn every Internet space that talks about a book into a place where you can buy that book,”

seems like very direct competition with the Amazon “Associates” programs, where small website and blog owners can link to the Amazon listings for titles related to their subject matter and get a small percentage from Amazon for any sales made through that link.


Also I see nothing in those articles about the publishers not using DRM.
The articles claim that the ebooks Google is selling are “cloud” ebooks which you view using a browser. You’ve personally posted quite a few posts about how easy it is to download off of Google Books out of the browser’s cache —- I don’t see how this new endeavor could be very much more secure, and it’s obvious that it would be trivial to take the source code for any open-source browser, like Firefox, and modify it just for the purpose of overcoming any attempt at preventing download. I don’t buy ebooks which use DRM, but (assuming that I’m correct) I’d be willing to buy one of these cloud ebooks.

My previous post assumes, of course, that the publishing companies understand this, also, which isn’t necessarily true.

BTW, thanks for the link to the better article about Google’s wholesaling. I think there’s a good chance that the independent bookstores are going to take a drubbing on this, as I am not convinced that their customer’s book buying habits won’t change from what they’ve known up to now.


You might want to read the readily available information instead of making assumptions. Here is the data on the DRM available for the author/small press/independent publisher agreement:

I do not know what the special contracts Google is crafting with the large publishers say, but I would be surprised if those publishers did not give themselves some kind of DRM option.

Whether publishers choose to use DRM but readers pirate anyway is, of course, another issue. You need to understand that for many years, in the US publishing world, piracy and plagiarism have been considered way out of bounds for moral reasons, not just because they can result in lawsuits. Although the large publishers have proven themselves all too eager to use the proposed Settlement to get e-rights from authors not granted in their contracts with those authors, they can still be pretty naive. They are by and large not prepared for a world where so many readers feel morally entitled to aggressively pirate everything. I think some of those publishers are in for a rude shock.

I agree that Google is likely to push independent bookstores out of the market—just as Amazon has been doing for years. Amazon is at least partly responsible for the death of many excellent independents.

Frances, you are right that Google doesn’t promise it will sell the books at the recommended Specified Price. It does promise, however, to pay the copyright owner as though all copies of the book had been sold at the Specified Price.

My reasoning is thus. 4.1 says “Google wil pay you” either the Standard Revenue Split or the Reseller Revenue Split. 1.18 defines the Standard Revenue Split as 52% of the List Price (subject to the exception in 4.4 and 4.5 for refunds and fraud). 1.16 is the same for the Reseller Revenue Split, except at 45% of the List Price. 1.13, in turn, defines the List Price as the Specified Price or the Default Price for individual sales or the Bundled Price for sales together with a print version. 3.1 and 3.2, respectively, state that the Specified Price and the Bundled Price are prices “recommended” by the copyright owner. And, crucially, 3.1 says that the Default Price applies “If you do not recommend a Specified Price.” There is thus no way for Google to avoid paying revenue shares based on the copyright-owner chosen price, even if the book is sold at the Default Price instead.

Thank you, James!



One thing that’s been bothering me is the use of the terms. In the industry, the publisher’s “list price” is firmly set by the publisher. It is never “suggested” or “recommended.” Retail prices (the prices charged to consumers) are “suggested,” but they are not assumed to be identical to the list price.

Thanks for everything,


I agree that the term “recommend” is strange in this context.


“3.4 Discounts. Google and its Authorized Resellers may discount the List Price and the Bundled Price at their sole discretion and in this case the Standard Revenue Split and the Reseller Revenue Split will be based on the List Price.”

But which price is the revenue split based on, the publisher’s “recommended” list price or the discounted list price? This is unclear to me. As a non-lawyer, I see no reason to believe it will be based on the undiscounted/”recommended” price.



There’s also

“(b) display, distribute, and make copies of Google Editions Content, including through caching, through Google Services and third party websites worldwide to allow Authorized End Users the perpetual right to download, access, view, copy, paste, print, and annotate Purchased Content (and share annotations) and including the ability for Google to store Purchased Content on a computer or other device for access by the Authorized End User when disconnected from the internet;”

versus, in the Program Policies:

“At this time, all Google eBooks will have copy/paste and print features disabled. Google will use commercially reasonable efforts to disable these features but cannot guarantee that its efforts will in every instance be effective. Google may offer other copy/paste and print options for Google eBooks in the future and you can decide to change these settings by visiting your account. “

So again, in my view as a non-lawyer, I feel that if I sign a contract allowing users the perpetual right to print the book the fact that according to program policies printing is disabled is meaningless.

At first I was glad Google got this contract down to less than 300 pages, but it still seems unclear.


Any idea as to the ‘profile’ of the people who might sign up for Google Editions ? I ask because the typical major academic publishing house contract makes the Google Editions contract look very generous. Most academic authors have a interest in wide fairly easy access to their work ,citations citations = increased hat and office size in the Academic pecking order . Their economic interests and the interests of authors that hope to actually sell books for a living are directly antithetical and I feel that this is the best reason for refusing the claim of class representative status, There is no commonality of economic interest between the millions of people who use word as part of how they earn a living.

John Walker: Any idea as to the ‘profile’ of the people who might sign up for Google Editions ?

That’s easy to investigate. Just look through the selection at the eBookstore site and see which books are available there and which aren’t.

James there is not much on the shelf and,

“The latest Google eBooks are not available for sale in your location, yet…”

BTW What could “yet” mean? Is there some starting condition we have not done?

Imagine that romance, thrillers and best sellers that are featured on the front page could go well , they mostly serve needs of the day, like whiling away long hours on airplanes. They have short shelf lives ,second hand copies have little value, compared to the latest edition of ‘Gertrude The Butlers Tale- a rollicking bodice ripper of a tale with sexy gypsy’s thrown in.’

I entered arts policy and got ten pages, Australian Poetry got seven pages, Australian art for some reason got a lot of library of congress catalogs.

Not all that obvious what its all about , looks a bit like a pilot in search of a plane.

Ah, that’s right. Territorial restrictions: we Americans can see and buy books, Australia isn’t part of the program yet.

Australia isn’t part of the program yet.

Part of what program?

Universal ,world wide unifying ambitions, if taken too seriously always end in disintegration.


The international restrictions are probably meaningless. Anyone can go through what is called a “proxy server” located in another country. For sales reasons, I sometimes participate in a group largely consisting of teenagers being home-schooled for religious reasons. They are constantly using British proxy servers to view BBC content restricted from US viewing. And, they see absolutely nothing morally wrong with it as long as nobody in the videos they view takes any clothes off.

Obviously this could be gotten around but;

Would Google accept payment from an Australian bank account?


Since Google’s terms allow unlimited viewing on an unlimited number of devices, my guess is all you need is a US friend with a Google Checkout account. You would then have to repay your friend. Although frankly, I see no real enforcement against you plus a bunch of other people all using the same book “in the cloud” and only paying once, regardless of geographic location. If Google is making most of their money from ads and perhaps other things such as a book-social-networking site, they may well not care if the copyright holders are paid as much as they should be.

…and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times on your Devices or as otherwise authorized [??]..

not quite the same as

Since Google’s terms allow unlimited viewing on an unlimited number of devices,

Is “your Devices” defined?

Frances Publishing is about the only Australian leftover from the old days of tariff barriers . It has a lot of emotional support as a ‘important part of who we are’. It can count on major popular authors to personally ,skillfully ,successfully emotively campaign for continued restrictions on imports. They have seen off many threats.


“Your devices” is defined BUT there is no restriction on the number of them. For example, I have licenses for software I run that say it can be used on two computers (one must be a laptop), licenses for other software that say it can be run on three or five computers (what they assume a small graphic arts shop needs), and licenses for fonts that say the font file can be used by my printer for the purpose of printing my book, but after that the printer must delete the font file.

Google could have defined a number of devices considered reasonable for one person to use for the purpose of reading books at any given time (I’d have said three maximum). They didn’t. I think they reserved the right to limit the number of devices later, but they may never do that.

This forum is full of attorneys who already know this, but one important thing in a contract is whether it has “teeth.” That is, it should consequences for what happens if a party to the contract does not follow the terms of the contract. The consequence of “we could limit the number of devices later if we feel like it” is not enough to ensure the publisher that a book will not be freely read “in the cloud” by a huge number of people, only one of whom paid to read it.

Frances, if you are looking in the user terms of service for teeth to protect the publisher, you are looking in the wrong place. The terms of service bind only Google and the user with respect to each other. It wouldn’t matter what those terms say; the publisher would have no right to insist on their enforcement. The publisher must look to its rights and remedies under the Google Editions Addendum. (Those remedies include choosing not to participate in the first place and withdrawing from participation.)


A good point. But if users were bound to any definite restrictions on use I assume Google would also tell them about those restrictions.

I plan to use the “remedy” of not participating at all. But, writers can be notably clueless about business. I suspect a lot of people will sign up for this, lose their shirts, then withdraw, BUT: Lose most of the revenues for the books that were already in the system because they cannot withdraw copies already “sold.”

I would love to compare this contract to the ones that were actually negotiated between Google and the large publishers. If any of the parties voluntarily discloses theirs, someone please let me know.


Basically, I think the Addendum should restrict how many people can use one file, and the terms for users should contain the same restrictions. Both parties should be told how the restrictions will be reinforced, and the publisher should be guaranteed financial compensation for reader misuse that has already occurred.