Yesterday saw the launch of Google's ebooks. Google has been working toward this for a long time, scanning millions of books into its system. Many of these--classics no longer under copyright--are free. Google could end up being a real competitor for Amazon's Kindle, which currently sells by far the majority of ebooks.
Here's the deal. You can download an epub version of a book from Google to transfer to many ereader devices and apps, including the Sony Reader and the Nook--but the books can't be transferred to the Kindle. (Amazon holds the format for Kindle ebooks close to its chest. No one can sell books to put on the Kindle except Amazon.)
Figuring out how to download a Google ebook to a certain device takes a number of clicks. First I suggest you go to the Google books Help Center for info on transferring to the various devices/apps. I looked up the instructions to transfer a book to a Sony Reader and found them helpful but incomplete. Here are all the steps I discovered in downloading a trial free book to my Sony. (For you Nook folks--sorry I don't have a Nook to experiment with. But your experience should be similar. If anyone's tried downloading on a Nook--please speak up.)
For the Sony Reader, follow the usual first steps to buying a book--connect your device via cable to your computer and open your Reader Library.
1. On the Internet go to the Google ebookstore.
2. Scroll down to the free books. I chose Great Expectations.
3. Click on the book to go to its page.
4. Look to the right where it says "Read on your device" and click there.
5. Scroll down until you see "eReaders and other devices." Note that this is where you'll see the link I mentioned above to "Help center instructions." The annoying thing is that when you click on this Help page it doesn't open a new window. So if you click it, you can either memorize the info and click your back button to return to buying the book, or open a second window in Google ebooks for purchasing, so you can refer to the Help page if needed.
6. Back on the page for the book you've chosen, click on "Download EPUB" toward the bottom of the page.
7. A File Download box may pop up, asking if you want to open the file or save it. Click open.
8. The file should open in your Reader Library. I could see a little piece of the cover. And I could see that I was on Page 1 of however many pages the book has.
9. Look toward the top right of your Reader Library. You'll see a box icon formed by four horizontal lines. If you hover your cursor over that (make sure first to click somewhere on the Reader so it's now your active window), you'll see "List View" pop up. Click on that icon to see a list of books in your Library. The book you just downloaded should be listed.
10. Click on the book and drag it over to your "Reader" (in the list on the left). If it's transferring correctly you will see a small plus sign pop up. And you'll see the "Status" circles start to go around, telling you that a book is transferring.
11. Click on your Reader to see the list of all books in the device. Your new book should be listed.
If these steps don't work for you, go back to the help page to look at alternatives.
As for price, doing a quick check of Amazon's top five Kindle sellers--Unbroken, Hornet's Nest, Decision Points, The Confession, Cross Fire--I could see that Amazon and Google prices for these books were identical. I imagine each seller will be watching the other for competitive pricing.
It'll be interesting to see in the future what the new Google ebooks does to the sales of the Kindle, since the two aren't compatible. Will people choose to buy another device such as the Sony Reader or Nook instead?