Google takes on Amazon Kindle with mobile ebooks

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Google announced that 1.5 million public-domain books it previously scanned and released for free via PC are now accessible on the mobile web. While Google Book Search for PCs displays scanned images of the original book pages, the new mobile incarnation displays only text, which the web services giant said enables wireless subscribers to download printed material more quickly. Google adds that it aims to make other books available on mobile in the future, including out-of-print titles and current releases scanned with publisher permission. "This is our first step, but it is an important step," said Google Book Search product manager Frances Haugen in an interview with The New York Times.

In addition, online retail giant Amazon.com announced it is planning a mobile book push of its own, distributing to various handsets and platforms a number of titles already available for its Oprah-endorsed Kindle e-reader device. "We are excited to make Kindle books available on a range of mobile phones," Amazon spokesman Drew Herdener tells the NYT. "We are working on that now." The Kindle presently offers close to a quarter of a million titles.

Amazon.com is poised to introduce an updated edition of the Kindle on Monday. Earlier this week, Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney crunched the numbers on the device, and estimates Amazon sold 500,000 units last year based on a filing by Sprint, which operates the Amazon Whispernet wireless delivery system enabling mobile shopping and over-the-air content downloading. Calling the Kindle "the iPod of the Book World," Mahaney also forecasts that the device will become a $1.2 billion business by 2010, assuming Kindle adoption will increase at a pace similar to the growth experienced by Apple's iconic music player and that consumers will purchase at least one ebook download per month.

For more on Google and Amazon's respective mobile efforts:
- read this New York Times article

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