Google's Daniel Clancy to Present Wi5 Tech Day Luncheon Keynote

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Daniel Clancy, director of Google Books, will be the keynote lunch speaker at the Winter Institute's Technology Day, on Wednesday, February 3. Clancy, who has given tech talks at a variety of venues, including South by Southwest and Stanford University, will discuss the soon-to-be-launched Google Editions and diversity in the e-book marketplace.

"We're very excited to bring Dan Clancy to Wi5," said ABA COO Len Vlahos. "He'll no doubt shed a lot of light on not only Google Editions, through which independent booksellers will be able to sell e-books, but on e-book trends across the industry."

Before joining Google in 2005, Clancy was the director of the Exploration Technologies Directorate at NASA Ames Research Center. He has a B.A. from Duke University in computer science and theatre and a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence from the University of Texas at Austin. Clancy recently spoke with BTW from Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, about his upcoming appearance at the Winter Institute.

Clancy plans to begin his Wi5 talk with a high-altitude look at e-books and, then, to focus on the upcoming entre of Google into the e-book marketplace. Google Edition e-books will be readable on any Internet device, including a PC, Sony Reader, iPhone, and smartphone running Google's Android operating system. They will be stored in "the cloud," which means that they'll be available anywhere with Internet access. Retailers, including independent bookstores, will be able to sell e-books through the Google Editions service.

Consumers' views of the e-book format have largely already been shaped, said Clancy. "What you see is that when people buy a digital book, it is less about the device as about the digital book itself. What you see is that the books are going to be stored in the cloud, or a digital locker on the Internet, so the device will be less important."

Though consumers tend to view the e-book as divorced from any one reader device, he noted that Amazon is working to see that they are married. "Part of Amazon's strategy is that once you've bought 10 e-books from Amazon, you always buy from them," explained Clancy. "Their idea is to get people to go digital, and they'll regularly purchase from one provider."

Google Editions takes a broader view of e-books, however, and wants to bring diversity to the marketplace, Clancy said. The Google program isn't based on a lock-in system that limits content available to a single vendor's device. Instead, Google Edition e-books are readable on multiple devices and will be available for sale via multiple channels, including independent bookstores.

"I would say Google, in many cases, strongly believes in the value of an open ecosystem as opposed to closed stovepipe restrictions," said Clancy. "And Google's not just a third player, but a force that will encourage a much more diverse ecosystem." So, in the same way a consumer can buy two physical books from, for example, Powell's and a third from Books Inc., with Google Editions, two e-books can be bought from Vroman's and a third from Politics & Prose.

Though selling e-books within a physical store might seem somewhat counterintuitive, Clancy noted that it capitalizes on what independent booksellers are famous for -- handselling, customer service, and browseability. "The question," he said, "is how to create a world that takes advantage of the benefits of discovery within a bricks-and-mortar store and offer that to someone who wants to consume the book digitally." Clancy said that he and his team are in the midst of discussions with ABA as well as individual booksellers about how to sell Google Editions within bricks-and mortar-bookstores.

Clancy's Wi5 talk will also explore what indie bookstores might look like in the near future -- including variations of combining print-on-demand capabilities with access to comprehensive online libraries. "Hopefully, 20 years from now, when someone walks into an independent bookstores," he said, "they will be able to walk out with any book ever printed, whether it's a printed or digital book. All sorts of pieces would need to come together for that to happen, but that's where we'll probably be."

The Winter Institute will be held from Wednesday through Friday, February 3 - 5, 2010, at the Doubletree San Jose in California. Full Wi5 program details, including session descriptions, are available on BookWeb's Wi5 Event pages. Questions about the education program and event registration may be addressed to Wi5@bookweb.org. --Karen Schechner