Here's an interesting story on a not-so-secret ebook initiative that may or may not be happening at Google. (Are there enough disclaimers in that statement?...)
Does it make sense for Google to consider creating an ebook distribution platform? Absolutely, assuming they work out the rights, revenue split, etc., issues with all the IP owners. But what's missing in all of this? How about a truly useful device? After all, Amazon and others have been selling ebooks for years and it hasn't moved the needle. I don't think Google will make a big difference just because they offer a service...unless they add one or more new, compelling features (more in a moment).
The article mentions how you'd be able to read your ebooks on a portable device, such as a Blackberry. I don't know about you, but I can't imagine reading too many books on my Blackberry. On the other hand, I do see a way for Google to make a difference by approaching this from a more granular level.
What if you could buy pieces of books, just those chapters or elements that you really feel you need? They mention a travel guide in the article. OK, you've made your flight and hotel reservations for your upcoming vacation and now you just want a lot of information on dining options in the area. Would you be likely to purchase just the restaurant section of a travel guide and use it on a portable device? Yes, I could see using that on my Blackberry, but I wouldn't need the whole travel guide on it.
This is just one content example but I'm sure there are plenty of others. It will be interesting to see if Google will invest the resources necessary to create a service that could change the playing field.