The California-based firm will launch Google Editions, a platform that will allow publishers to sell ebooks directly through their websites, as well as through Google.
Crucially, publishers will be allowed to keep almost all of the cover price of the sales, in contrast to Apple’s iBook platform and Amazon’s Kindle ebook service, which charge a substantial premium.
Kindle looks set to be the biggest loser. Ebooks sold through Amazon require a specific Kindle player or iPad application to read. Google’s format will be available on rival players such as Sony’s Reader as well as web browsers like explorer and firefox, meaning there is less reason to invest in Amazon’s handset.
Google also has the advantage of offering access to over 12m books, both in-print and out-of-print, that are already stored on its servers – far bigger than the selection offered by Amazon or Apple.
Books are the latest product to be sold through digital platforms after the film and music industries were revolutionised.
Apple’s iPad, still with no official UK release date after it was delayed due to hyper demand in the US, has been widely touted as a Kindle-killer.
The device, which shifted more than 1m units in its first month on sale, can be used as an ebook reader as well as a web browser and games machine. Users have already downloaded more than 1.5m ebooks.
Amazon responded this week by allowing Kindle users to connect to social networking sites Twitter and Facebook on the device.