February 4, 2016 Last Updated 12:47 pm

Google previews its eBook experiment with partner Visual Editions: Editions at Play

The new digital bookstore for the Google backed eBook effort has opened, but has only two books available to sample or buy, with two more not due to appear until the spring

Those of use who have grown frustrated with Apple’s growing disinterest in digital publishing, and know full well that Amazon sees the opening and now wants to push its Kindle efforts into the iOS ecosystem, have wonder when Google would finally enter the fray. But unlike Apple, Google is not one to select a few major publishers and begin developing something in partnership, they like their own experiments.

One of those experiments, Editions at Play, is at the point where it can preview some of its efforts.


Editions at Play is a partnership between Visual Editions and Google’s Creative Lab. Last spring it was announced that they would be able to preview some of its efforts by the fall, but as happens with such things, it has taken until now to be able to start to showcase some of its new eBooks.

What has been unveiled is hardly a full catalog of eBooks. In fact, there are only two available at the new bookstore: Entrances & Exits by Reif Larsen and The Truth About Cats & Dogs by Sam Riviera and Joe Dunthorne.

The effort is to produce, as Visual Editions states it, eBooks that are unprintable.

“We sell unprintable books that you can read on your phone,” the company said yesterday. “It’s a response to the world of digital books, e-books, enhanced e-books, and online PDFs. Because quite frankly we believe readers deserve more. So why not make digital books that are more bookish. And more delightful. And even magical.”

That sounds a bit like Steve Jobs, doesn’t it?


They are right: today’s crop of eBooks are nothing special (with notable exceptions, of course).

These two new eBooks are HTML based, so the reader simply needs to access the correct URL at this point. The starting point is the website, then they log into their Google account to either buy or get a sample.

It’s a nice experiment, but if Google had asked I might have told them that they are acting as if it were 2010. That was the year we saw similar experiments with tablet editions, complete with incredible, all the bells and whistles, new apps. They went nowhere for two reasons: traditional print publishers were not inclined to invest in such efforts, and enthusiastic digital publishers were in no position to invest in such efforts.

This looks like quite an effort. The next two books, for instance – Strata by Tommy Lee Edwards & I Speak Machine and All This Rotting by Alan Trotter – are not due until spring.

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