Google eBooks officially launched this morning, becoming the largest bookstore in the world virtually overnight. And with some 4000 publishers participating initially, its inventory will only grow. Formerly known as Google Editions, Google's newest online venture changed its name on launch in order to better reflect its content - and rightly so: Google Editions always sounded too much like an imprint of a physical publishing house to me.
But ebooks is what Google's new ebookstore is all about. And its approach is entirely new. While digital copies purchased via Google eBooks - or any of its rapidly growing infantry of retailers (including the social book site Goodreads) - can be downloaded for use offline, purchased titles are also stored in the "digital cloud," where they are accessible by the buyer at any time on any device with a web browser, including the iPad, Nook, Sony Reader or smartphone of your choice (although not the Kindle - while it features an experimental browser, it doesn't support Adobe's ACS4 encryption technology, used to secure each user's account). In addition, to increase the convenience of its digital editions, Google will soon introduce both iOS and Android apps which will sync with your customer account, allowing you to read a few pages on one device, and then pick up where you left off on another.