About a year ago, Google launched Google Ebooks. So where is it now? It doesn’t look like it has managed to move the needle too far, and nobody seems to talk about it. Why is that? Because nobody can find a a good enough reason to use it over Amazon’s Kindle app.
I wish Google would stop competing head-on with Amazon. It will never work, even if they put the Google Ebooks app on the main screen of every Android phone out there. It’s too late for that. People know Amazon exists and that they have an app for every device, so one of Google Ebooks’ biggest features – “synching with every device” – has also been nullified by Amazon.
They need to come up with ways to “disrupt” Amazon – in a big way. The funny thing is Amazon is already trying to do that to itself (smart of them) in a way or two. One would be the Kindle Singles platform, which if formed of $1-$3 mini-books, and the other is the rumored “all-you-can-eat” subscription service for books, which might arrive soon.
Why can’t Google come up with these sort of ideas, too? Because that’s what it will take if they ever hope to steal *any* market share from Amazon. Selling the same books and for the same prices doesn’t even get you in the game (as a new entrant), let alone make you competitive against Amazon.
If I were them I’d try to disrupt Amazon by putting Admob ads on phones and tablets against every page/screen of the ebook. I’m not sure about how Adsense would work. It would at least need a different format, and not look like the way it looks on the web today. The point is to deliver ads that are relevant to the content on the page you’re reading, but without being any more intrusive than the current ads in Android apps (which I don’t find very intrusive at all).
Would this be hard to do? Heck yeah. It will probably be almost impossible to get the support of publishers, because they’ll think they will commoditize the price of ebooks. But just look at Amazon. They don’t seem to care about what the publishers think, and they are even entering their own publishing business, and becoming a direct competitor to their own suppliers.
Besides, it’s better to choose the hard, but right way (strategy wise), than a less hard one, but doomed to fail from the start, like what they’ve been doing so far. Get big book titles to be offered for free, ad-based, and they might get somewhere. They should try the same strategy they are using against the TV industry right now, with the upcoming premium Youtube channels.
If Google could bring ebooks closer to their real cost, which is almost free for every copy made, they would change the world. Ebooks wouldn’t be pirated anymore, because they’d already be free, but the authors could still get significant revenue, perhaps even more than they would’ve if they priced it $10 and nobody bought it.
Just think back to Angry Birds. It was being sold for 99 cents on iPhone, and when it was offered for free on Android, with ads, it made at least as much money for the company. Just like Angry Birds, which was a very addicting game, that made you spend hours and hours in it, a book can also keep you for hours using it, which means more potential for ad clicks and revenue.
This is a risky and long term strategy, but it sounds right to me and it plays to Google’s strengths of monetizing content through ads. Google should at least give it a try, before Amazon takes even that away from them (they’ve already started discounting Kindles through their ad network).