The company had been aiming to launch the service in June or July, but legal and technical issues caused delays.
Finally, the launch is imminent. The company plans to debut the new service before the end of the year, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Nevertheless, the timing could prove a bit awkward. The European Commission on Tuesday announced an antitrust investigation into Google's search and advertising business. And two potential Google acquisitions, Groupon and ITA Software, are likely to encourage more antitrust worries. Earlier this year, Google's ambitions in the book business prompted calls for antitrust scrutiny from competitors like Microsoft.
Google however has made clear that Google Editions is not an exclusive program. Thus authors and publishers who sell Google Editions can also sell their content through other services.
Google Editions are digital books with digital copying restrictions; they look like what's currently offered through Google Books.
Purchasing a Google Edition will give the buyer the ability to access that book from most devices that support Web browsers and devices offered by an as yet undisclosed set of supported device partners. This marks a significant point of differentiation from Apple and Amazon, which limit purchased e-books to proprietary hardware.
In another departure from what Apple and Amazon are doing, Google is taking a federated approach, allowing Authorized Resellers to sell Google Editions through their own online book selling sites.
Google says it will pay resellers 45% of a book's list price; its standard revenue split for Google Editions is 52%.
Google Editions access rights will be tied to Google Accounts, a fact that may help Google in its struggle against Facebook. Given enough partners, Google could turn a significant number of readers into new Google Account holders. Google would prefer for Google Accounts to become the default online identity rather than Facebook accounts.
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