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By PETER ZSCHUNKE
Google Inc. is launching a new online service for booksellers next year called Google Editions, which will let readers buy books and read them on gadgets ranging from cell phones to possibly e-book devices.
It's the first foray into charging for books for the Mountain View, California-based company, which began its Google Books program in 2004, and will put it in competition with Amazon.com Inc's Kindle reader.
Tom Turvey, head of Google Book Search's publisher partnership program, said the price per book would be set by their publishers and would start with between 400,000 to 600,000 books in the first half of 2010.
"It will be a browser-based access," Turvey said Thursday at the 61st Frankfurt Book Fair. "The way the e-book market will evolve is by accessing the book from anywhere, from an access point of view and also from a geographical point of view."
The books bought from Google, and its partners, would be accessible on any gadget that has a Web browser, including smartphones, netbooks and personal computers and laptops. A book would be accessible offline after the first time it was accessed.
Google will collect 55 percent of the profits, Turvey said, giving a "vast majority" of that to retailers, and the rest will go to the publisher.