Hooking bookworms in the digital space isn't easy, but that won't stop Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) from trying. Both companies are working on e-book solutions, according to a recent Techcrunch entry.

Yes, this is the same Google that's shutting down its online video store. Yes, it's the same Amazon that's made its mark selling real books. Meanwhile, the Sony (NYSE:SNE) Reader -- despite its initially favorable reviews -- has proved to be about as in demand as head lice or butternut-squash ice cream.

Maybe it will make a difference that Amazon and Google are dipping their toes into the market in entirely different ways. Amazon is hoping to launch a standalone hardware-software ecosystem with its Kindle program, while Google just wants to sell you online books.

Blowing out the Kindle
Amazon's Kindle isn't a surprise. We've been talking about it since last year, when Amazon handed over a prototype to the FCC for approval. We even know how Amazon plans to outdo the Reader, courtesy of a built-in wireless modem that will allow book fans to refresh their Kindles with new content on the go.

With pricing likely to be in the $400 to $500 range, Kindle is clearly not going to fly as a reader alone. Even devout bookworms would rather spend that money on 80 or so paperbacks. It's also an aesthetic killjoy. The prototype's space-hogging keyboard and throwback design makes those brown Zunes look like chick magnets.

However, if that same keyboard functionality and Evolution-Data Optimized connectivity mean that the Kindle can double as a watered-down Web surfer or a next-generation way to get your morning paper, this may work. In the end, it's all about getting this ugly Trojan horse into enough homes to feed traffic into Amazon's high-margin e-bookstore.

These are intriguing times for such innovations. Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPod touch is a beauty queen with a killer Wi-Fi personality, but elsewhere, Palm (NASDAQ:PALM) just axed its Foleo before it even hit the market. Evolution is a relentless jogger, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Amazon ultimately followed Palm's blueprint and killed the Kindle before it sees the light of day.

On the other hand, Amazon is probably too proud to do that. Even as cheaper e-book readers such as the Sony Reader and Franklin's (AMEX:FEP) eBookman lines collect dust, Amazon thinks it can bring something new to the table. Let's hope so, because the prototype actually looks as though it could double as a table.

The Google way
Google isn't dreaming as big. It's not a hardware maker, Gphone rumors notwithstanding. It has spent the past few years indexing books, and the plan appears to be to sell complete books in digital form.

As is the case with Amazon, that's the kind of blueprint that sounds great in the vacuum of a boardroom. Yet a transactional venture would be a big boost to the fledgling Google Checkout platform, and with Big G still scoring 99% of its revenue from online advertising, a little diversity couldn't hurt.

But as soon as you say that, reality comes swerving around the corner, and a foolproof plan becomes a deer staring at a pair of widening headlights. See, if promoting Google Checkout and diversifying revenue were priorities, the company would have never booted commercial videos from its Google Video website. If Google couldn't get its users to pay up for digital video the way Apple and Amazon are doing, why would it fare any better in peddling words?

Amazon's Kindle and Google's e-book are completely different ventures, but they are both starting to read the same way. I know I've read this book before. I won't spoil it for you, but you're not going to like how it ends.

Heck, let me save you the trouble and play the spoiler. Turn the page. See the empty page?

That's how it ends.    

Stories that may have happier endings:

Amazon.com and Palm have been recommended to Stock Advisor subscribers. If you relish reading, why not make it profitable? A free 30-day trial subscription today should be just enough to make you a smarter investor.   

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can't fathom reading an entire book on his screen, though short stories and news may warm him up to the Kindle. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy.