One of Google's
It's not quite as revolutionary as it may sound. The only books available for download are those that are in the public domain, so Google isn't violating copyright laws by giving people access to these freebies in their entirety. And of course, considering the fact that it often takes decades for books to enter the public domain, there's an emphasis on classics here.
Google Books gives Internet users many options when they're searching for books. They can download the book (again, as long as it's in the public domain and has been digitized by Google), click on links to buy the book from online retailers, discover whether the book is in a local library, and search the book.
Which brings us to the question of whether the free and full availability of digital versions of some classics stands to threaten publishers or bookstores like Amazon.com
That's not to say that the landscape might not change, especially if there are increased technological options that nudge digital books into the mainstream. Sony
For now, though, Google's bookish innovation may seem like an impressive tool, and it definitely speaks to the company's search-centric mission of organizing the world's information. But from an investing point of view, how it will help the top or bottom line is a little harder to quantify. When it comes to Google's financial outlook, is this another product "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"? (Thank you, Google Books, for the public domain version of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, although admittedly "sound and fury" might be a bit of an exaggeration.) At any rate, when it comes to Google's many ancillary products and services, investors are obviously dying to know how such stories will end.
For more on Google, see the following Foolish articles:
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.