Google revealed on Wednesday that it will soon begin selling and renting a "comprehensive" selection of educational textbooks. The textbook portion of Google's Play store is set to go live in August.
The announcement plays as a 1-2 punch from Google, which launched a tailored Google Play store experience emphasizing education. Once in place, the new textbooks initiative will allow students to rent books for six-month periods at discounted prices of up to 80 percent.
As with movies and books, educational titles will sync across devices and platforms, so you can swap between the tablet and the phone. Textbooks will also synchronize highlights, bookmarks, and notes.
According to Google, five major textbook publishers are already onboard and will have titles ready at launch.
Google is not the first major player to step into the field of education; Apple has a similar service known as iBooks 2. Yet, despite iBooks' 3D graphics and interactive features, Apple doesn't dominate the educational market. That means there's room for Google to succeed with its model.
I suspect that Google will ultimately become a big player in the area of educational textbooks for high school and college students. Looking at the big picture, I see an ambitious company with the necessary tools.
Apple, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble each offers services that cater to the educational sector, but each is tied to a specific platform or a limited audience. Google, for its part, plans to offer titles across Android, Chrome, iOS, and the Web.
According to Google, there will be more than 70 million Android tablets activated around the world by the end of 2013. Looking ahead, the next-generation Nexus 7 and other low-cost tablets should continue to build momentum around the platform. If Google can work its partnerships, it can seed more devices in universities and schools. However, it's more likely that Google is counting on low-cost hardware and deep textbook discounts to lure students organically -- their parents, too.
I get the sense that Google will continue to push into the educational sector much like it has with businesses. By leasing inexpensive Chromebooks to schools and universities by providing Internet to the masses, Google is clearly invested in future generations.
Surely I'm not the only one excited about the prospects of combining discounted educational tools with Internet access for all.