Book Wars – Amazon, Apple and Now Google All Enter The Fray

The book wars are really now in full swing and the publishing industry will be changed forever.

Google announced yesterday that they were going to become a book retailer. Crazy, right? What’s a search engine company that derives its revenue from advertising doing aspiring to become a book retailer? But the world’s largest source of information “gets it”. Content is king and if they are the source for great content, they will attract more advertising dollars.

Amazon’s Kindle was the first disruptive force, but Amazon effectively had the market to themselves and had the market power to dictate terms to publishers and set terms with retailers. Then, Apple’s iPad was released, and suddenly the power shifted away from Amazon to the publishers. With 1 million iPads in the market after only a few short weeks of sales, it is clear that the iPad is going to be a highly utilized book reading device. Suddenly, the publishers had a bit more leverage, even though 3 million Kindles have been sold and not all iPads are being used as reading devices…yet.

The negotiations between the various parties have started getting nasty. I’m a victim of that, as are other authors. My book, Mastering the VC Game, is published by Penguin and not available on the Kindle. That’s right, a technology venture capitalist writing a book about entrepreneurship can’t produce a book available on the Kindle. Idiotic, right? But Amazon and Penguin are locked into contract negotiations and so an April 1st deadline has come and gone and all books released after April 1 are now blocked from Kindle access.

Now, Google is getting into the act. Their announcement yesterday at a panel entitled “The Book on Google: Is the Future of Publishing in the Cloud?”, indicated that Google was still deciding whether it will allow the publishers to set book prices or whether Google gets to set price. That’s a big part of the issue with Amazon as well – who gets to set price? Does Amazon get to set $9.99 as the retail price or does the publisher set price, just like any manufacturer would with a typical retailer?

Books in the cloud. Music in the cloud. Video in the cloud. Multiple devices accessing diverse content irrespective of location. The future we’ve all envisioned is finally here. The winner in all this? The consumer. Now could you just settle up on that Kindle edition thing, already?

Jeff is a partner with Boston-based VC firm Flybridge Capital Partners. Read his past peHUB posts, or follow him on Twitter at