Google Giving Away eReaders at Google Books – What Took So Long?

Google announced today that it is running a contest for the next ten days where visitors to the controversial and under-loved Google Books site can win a Sony Reader eBook device. Literature-related trivia will now be hunted for using the site’s new search inside the book feature and people who find the right answers will be entered into a drawing to win a Sony Reader device.

The contest is the kind of traditional marketing that more web applications could benefit from and will no doubt introduce many new people to the features of the service. Our question, though, is this: why not do this every day of the year? At under $300 retail price (and you know Google could get a deal) it would cost around $100k to give one away every day. How much do you think the Google Books team has spent on legal defense in the last year? Millions of dollars, we’re sure.

Our guess is, in as much as people know anything about Google Books, it’s that the service is in a protracted legal battle with the publishers of the books it’s indexing.

We’d guess almost no one knows about the service’s new magazine search or the excellent mobile version of the site.

Last month we reported that Google plans to go into the eBook sales business by allowing vendors to sell eBook copies through Google Books.

Why not give away a free reader every day and bring all the people to the site that a promotion like that surely would? Heck, give away three every day. At this point the project has to be bleeding money and yet how often do you hear people talk about it? If eBooks are really a big part of the future, a few hundred thousand dollars spent by Google to promote their offering in this market sure would be money well spent.

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