August 6 – August 13, 2009 Edition

Sony, Google Expand e-Book Deal

The battle for dominance in the e-book market heated up last week with Google and Sony announcing they would provide access to more than 1 million free public domain books in Sony’s eBook Store, including classic novels, biographies, historical texts, romance novels and more. This came on the heels of Barnes & Noble’s launch of its e-book store, offering 700,000 e-book titles.

According to one blog, the Sony process involves downloading software, signing up for an account and loading the e-books (in EPUB format) onto a compatible device, either the $280 Sony PRS-505 or the $350 PRS-700 Reader. The PRS-500 does not work with the Google offering. Credit Suisse predicts that e-book sales in the U.S. will climb from $52.4 million wholesale in 2008 to $1.8 billion (in wholesale publisher revenues) in 2014. About market four million e-readers in US consumer hands by the

end of this year.

The Sony titles were digitized as part of Google’s Books project, and are available only in the US market, due to pending copyright issues. A fairness hearing for a US class action suit, dubbed the Google

settlement, is due to be heard in US District Court October 7, 2009. Class action members in the US suit hope to claim a small payment for Google’s illegal scanning of huge numbers of books. The suit was brought by the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild. Authors have until September 4 to decide whether to remain in the Settlement Class and receive the benefits, object to the Settlement, or opt out of the Settlement.

(Editor’s Note: It is interesting that Google is forging ahead on the distribution of e-books before its Court case is settled. Of the 1 million free public domain books being offered in Sony’s eBook store, we wonder how many are orphaned works or works for which the rightsholder has not given Google permission to sell).