Are we finally about to meet Google Editions, Google's e-bookstore? The Wall Street Journal seems to think so.

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 month and internationally in the first quarter of next year, said Scott Dougall, a Google product management director.

In recent weeks, independent booksellers, which are expected to play a big role in Google Editions, began receiving contracts from their trade group. Several publishers said they were exchanging files with Google—a sign that it is close to launch, publishers say.

"Because of the complexity of this project, we didn't want to come out with something that wasn't thorough," Mr. Dougall said.

This could change the way e-books are sold, opening up the DRM model that Amazon has made the e-book industry standard up till now. It also allows independent booksellers to get into the game, by hosting Google's e-bookstore on their site for a good cut of the profits.