Google has released its eBooks store. While the marketing is convincing and inspiring and its selection and prices appear to be on-par with Amazon, its biggest selling point is flawed and its improvements over Amazon are in fact (so far) singular.
Google’s marketing its eBook store as the best way to access your digital book collection from across a wide range of connected devices. While they’re doing a better job advertising this function than Amazon, they’ve barely done a better job of implementing it. They’ve added a slick web-based eBook reader (no need to install Kindle software on your Windows PC or Mac, or wrestle with WINE to get it working on Linux), but your progress on a given book in the web reader or an iOS/Android device doesn’t carry over to or from your reading of that book on a supported eInk device (such as the Nook or Sony Reader). Google really touts this ability to pull out your phone in-line at the DMV and pick up where you left off in your book from when you were at home… but they leave it to the fine print to explain that you can’t have this if you’re using an eInk device anywhere in the mix. Amazon doesn’t have this problem. Read a book on your Kindle, iPhone, PC… you can pick up where you left off no matter what (the only catch being that the book was purchased and not side-loaded from a DRM-free source).
Amazon could (and should) copy Google’s eBook web reader. I expect they will eventually. Google can’t copy Kindle’s progress syncing on ePub devices like Nook or Sony Reader unless those manufacturers allow them to publish an app for those devices that ties them into the Google eBook store (which is very unlikely).
Amazon’s continued refusal to add ePub support to the Kindle still disappoints me, but they HAVE created apps for a wide range of platforms (iOS, BlackBerry, Android, Windows/Mac) and they’ve made all of their features sync across those platforms. The only downside to no ePub support is that I mostly have to buy from Amazon. But their competitive prices and unparalleled selection make this a non-issue. The only Google eBooks feature I covet as a Kindle owner is the web-based eBook reader, and I expect Amazon to copy it in the near future.
The Google eBook Store doesn’t make me regret owning a Kindle. But if I were a Nook or Sony Ereader owner, I’d definitely consider buying my books from the Google eBook store from now on.