Google is moving into the ebooks market with the long awaited launch of its Google Editions later this month.
Google Editions was due to be launched this summer but was delayed following legal and technical problems. The venture will allow people to buy electronic books that they can read in any device with a web browser. A UK launch is expected next year.
Users can already see previews of millions of new and backlist books in the Google Books program. But it is thought the move to allow consumers to purchase some of these books will give independent booksellers access to the growing ebooks market.
In a statement earlier this year Google said, "Today it is possible for users to view a limited percentage of each book submitted to Google Books by you. With the launch of Google Editions in 2010, you as the rightsholder will be able to choose to sell full access to your books directly to consumers."
The American Booksellers Association told the New York Times that more than 200 bookstores across the country could sign up.
Google's venture could threaten Apple and Amazon's position in the ebooks market, as a growing number of 7" tablet computers are now available for sale that run Google's Android mobile phone system and can easily connect to Google servers - where the books will be stored.
According to a new survey conducted by research network ChangeWave, the Kindle currently accounts for 47% of the ereader market, down from 62% in August 2010 - the iPad grew from 16% in August to 32% in November.