Google finally launched their Google eBookstore this morning. When they flipped the switch, it instantly became the largest e-bookseller in the world, with over three million titles available. You can find an overview of the Google eBookstore here, including a video that promotes the "reading in the cloud" angle, through which you can read Google books on any device. (This is actually something that Amazon has been doing for a while now with their Kindle software.) You can also download the books in .epub or .PDF formats for non-web-connected devices. Google eBooks will work with Barnes & Noble's Nook and Sony Reader e-readers, but the Kindle isn't supported. (If any Stranger readers would like to try directing their 3G Kindles to Google eBooks and see if the web reading works on the Kindle, I'd much appreciate it if they sent me an e-mail about the experience.)
As has been reported for months now, Google is partnering with independent booksellers to sell e-books through their websites. Of the big three independent booksellers in Seattle, only Third Place Books seems to be selling Google e-books immediately, but I'll be doing a little digging today to learn which local bookstores will be partnering with Google to sell e-books in the near future. UPDATE: Slog tipper Maggie points out that Elliott Bay Book Company is now selling Google eBooks.
Some very early thoughts: I think this spells trouble for Apple's iBookstore, which only had 60,000 titles at launch.
There's apparently not going to be any Gmail-style years-long "Beta" edition; the interface is well-thought-out and smooth. It seems to be working very well at launch: I downloaded the Google eBooks app for my Android phone and started reading Great Expectations—every Google eBooks account apparently starts with Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, and Great Expectations—and when I went to launch the book on my browser, it picked up right where I left off on my phone. There are a few thoughtful touches, especially with the page numbering, as TechCrunch points out:
The team is especially proud of the page numbering scheme they use, which displays not the “virtual” page number, which would change every time you resized the text, but the actual print page number from that edition. If you have the text set to very small, it will read “pages 150-155″ or something.
The most important thing about Google eBooks at launch is the magic number: Three million e-books! It legitimizes e-books in a very important way, by including midlist authors, titles from backstock, and academic volumes the way a real bookstore does. It'll be interesting to see what this does to the e-book market after Christmas, when people break out their shiny new e-readers and tablets and start downloading books.