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Google could start selling digital books as early as June or July, through a service called Google Editions.
While it’s been no secret that the company has had its eye on the book market for quite some time, it’s now told the Wall Street Journal that it’s ready to go.
Google has long been rumoured to be developing an e-reader itself, competing with the iPad, Kindle and Nook devices.
However, the big selling point for Google Editions will be that it’s browser-based, so won’t be restricted to a single platform. This could give it a big advantage over Amazon, for example, whose software runs on a very limited range of devices.
And nor will customers have to buy directly from Google. Other online retailers and even traditional bricks-and-mortar stores will be able to sell Google Editions, and they will take the majority of the revenue. Publishers will be able to set the price of their books.
Last year, Google said it expected to be able to offer 500,000 books when it launched a service.
The plans are quite separate from the controversy over Google Book Search, the company’s attempt to gain the right to sell out-of-print but copyrighted books. This is currently under consideration by an appeals judge, and a decision is expected soon.