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Why Doesn’t Google Make a Dedicated E-ink eReader?

Google may require that their ebook app be installed on almost all Android devices, but it is often pretty easy to forget that Google sells ebooks, much less that its ebook market share is around 2% (by optimistic estimates).

Nevertheless, this has inspired my competitor to ponder why Google doesn’t make an ereader rather than just sell ebooks on smartphones like the one shown below.



The Play Books app is actually pretty good too, and it even supports uploading your own ePub and PDF books. Too bad Google doesn’t put more effort into their ebook business.

They could offer a really nice dedicated E Ink ebook reader if they really wanted to, and they have the technology and resources to make it unique enough to gain attention from readers.

Lots of people would love to have a good ePub-supporting alternative to the Kindle. Google could have some interesting features like being able to download nicely-formatted web articles and news clippings and being able to access their library of digitized content.

First, that sound you hear is the folks at Kobo up in Toronto asking, W’hat are we, chopped liver?"

They would have  good point, if they had said that. Kobo does make a good epub-supporting alternative to the Kindle (or rather, their hardware partner Netronix makes decent alternatives to the Kindle and then licenses them to Kobo, B&N, and other companies).

When I first read that post, I wondered why Google would bother with an E-ink ereader; the real question is what’s in it for Google, when they make most of their money from ads, have such a small share of the ebook market, and don’t have the hardware team to make an ereader in the first place.

But then there’s Netronix, and that changes the entire focus of the discussion. Google doesn’t have the team to make their own ereader, but then again they don’t need one. They could outsource development to Netronix and then sell the resulting products alongside the other devices in the Google Store.

Remember, Google also sells a smart speaker, tablet, and smartphones under it own brand. Many of those devices are now designed in house, but in the past Google has sought outside engineering expertise to build it gadgets.

It would have taken very little for Google to have the ebook people it acqui-hired with ETI in 2011 to work with Netronix and produce an ereader that was tied to Google Play Books.

Does anyone have a good idea why they did not?

My guess is that Google dropped plans for the ereader when they failed to make gains in the ebook market.

Remember, in 2011 Google bought ETI in January and then worked with iriver to launch the Story HD in July. If Google had succeeded in gaining significant market share, they would have followed up with the launch of a Google eReader and boosted growth momentum.

But as we know, Google never gained significant share of the market, and that killed its plans to directly challenge Amazon in the ereader market.

Or do you think there’s another explanation?

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user August 8, 2017 um 12:22 pm

You wanted to say:
Why doesn’t Google develop and make affordable ePaper?
Why would Google rely on Chinese monopoly?

Nate Hoffelder August 8, 2017 um 1:04 pm

I don’t understand?

Basem August 8, 2017 um 1:32 pm

Kobo’s hardware design and software development is in-house and based on their design and development process then license out production to Netronix. I believe Amazon do the same thing with their Kindles and Fire tablets.

Kobo’s epub support isn’t that good and you need to convert epubs to kepubs to get a smoother reading experience. Google, if they decided to make an e-reader, would probably produce a better e-reader with dedicated epub support and integration with their suite of applications (e.g. Google Drive).

Frank August 8, 2017 um 1:39 pm

Perhaps Google saw that e-readers would drop in popularity back then so didn’t bother. It think it would have been a mistake to put resources into making an ereader.

Allen F August 8, 2017 um 3:40 pm

"Lots of people would love to have a good ePub-supporting alternative to the Kindle."

Now, would those 'lots of people' be willing to 'pay' for one?

How many are those 'lots of people'? Enough to make a product for?

I’m guessing Google ran the numbers and didn’t see enough ROI to want to try it. (Plus in today’s market it has to be able to read 'everything', it’s not going to sell at all if word got out that you can’t use it except on ebooks from Google.)

Maria (BearMountainBooks) August 8, 2017 um 6:20 pm

I sell more ebooks per month on Google Play than B&N. I don’t know why. As an associate for Google Play, it’s nearly impossible to earn much. People aren’t really shopping there for books (so it seems to me). But people do buy them and they seem to buy music (more often than books). My guess is that they viewed it as too late to do a reader. By the time they looked into it the market was flattening. The e-ink reader was/is no longer a hot, must-have item. The google home/Amazon echo products are hotter sellers right now. They were the big Christmas items last year. And why not? It takes the advertiser/associate commissions out of the picture and results in direct sales. If people want them, it’s a smarter item to sell than an e-reader.

That’s not to say that I think e-readers aren’t useful or have stopped selling. I just don’t think it’s a growth area and unless Google was able to innovate a must-have product, it would just be another gadget in a crowded market with very thin margins.

Mark Williams Int. August 9, 2017 um 5:21 am

Google’s ebook focus is clearly not on the US and like markets. Where Google Play Books is strong is in smartphone-driven markets.

gbm August 8, 2017 um 6:42 pm

Google does not have an epub ebook reader app it has something that uses it own crap format. That is why you have to upload to the google cloud in order to read your own ebooks using it.

Nate Hoffelder August 8, 2017 um 10:15 pm

this is true, and it raises interesting questions about maybe they can’t support an Epub ereader

Jan Krohn August 9, 2017 um 6:45 am

I’ve been waiting for a Marshmallow e-ink reader for a very long time. Please, Google, do it!!!

nemano August 14, 2017 um 3:31 am

Ebooks are one thing, e-ink devices a totally different thing. The question is how to combine them (ebook e-store + e-ink device) so that the result would be profitable. Thus far only Kindle has succeeded, in North America. Everybody else everywhere else is either left trying to generate profit primarily with e-ink devices (Onyx, Pocketbook) or primarily with their e-store app + LCD devices (Prestigio). Pocketbook’s e-store has effectively closed, while Prestigio, after some interesting experiments which include an e-ink mobile phone, has effectively given up trying to produce e-ink devices. Nook also surrendered to LCD.

What should Google do? Google has that project where they all the paper sheets in the world, so Google has the most fearsome potential to distribute free or ultra-low priced ebooks of any knowable text. I guess their Books app is just biding its time. But e-ink devices are still essentially a totally different thing, with no foreseeable commercial prospect.

I would compare e-ink devices to text-mode webbrowsers in terminal emulators. Those text browsers massively improve the reading experience of the web, but there is not a single commercial producer that makes them. Looks like there is no profit to be made by providing a good reading experience. If we want more e-ink devices, the only hope is an occasional upstart or some charitable volunteer project. » Hey Google, wann gibt’s mal wieder einen E-Reader von dir? August 14, 2017 um 3:47 am

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