Despite the fact that nobody reads anything anymore, the ebook market sure is hot lately, with Barnes & Noble about to make some sort of big splash and now Google getting in on the action in a new way. After shaking up the industry quite a bit with its Google Books initiative, Google is going to offer paid ebook purchases in its new "Google Editions" store in the first half of next year, which has been bumped back from the 2009 launch originally planned. The store will offer somewhere in the range of 400,000 and 600,000 books (compared to the 100,000ish offered by Sony and the 330,000+ on Kindle), and prices will be set by publishers, with Google collecting 55 percent of the profits and supposedly sharing much of that with "retail partners." The books will be available to any device with a web browser, but will be available offline after they've been accessed the first time -- that sounds like Google Gears to us, but since phones and other devices are mentioned for compatibility, hopefully there's more to it than just a browser-based reader.

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Google clarifies plans for Google Editions ebook store launching next year