How will you read great stories in the digital age?

The choices for North Bay readers recently expanded now that Corte Madera’s Book Passages is offering to sell Google eBooks. The Marin bookstore’s latest newsletter announces that it has joined the digital age with the same kind of electronic offerings that can be found at the Amazon and Apple internet stores.

Sonoma County’s major independent, Copperfield’s Books, also is making preparations to sell ebooks.

“Absolutely we are considering and working very hard to get Google eBooks onto our site as well,” Copperfield’s CEO Tom Montan said Tuesday morning. “The answer is yes, we are going to be there soon.”

Copperfield’s Marketing Director Vicki DeArmon told me Tuesday morning that selling books in digital format is “a fairly high priority.” She expected further announcements as the staff prepares this year to celebrate Copperfield’s 30th anniversary.

The Book Passages newsletter announces that electronic books are “probably” a permanent part of the literary marketplace. Isn’t that a little like telling us that the trend of watching motion pictures outside of theaters may be here to stay?

Nonetheless, the Google approach offers something many local readers will value: a chance to keep buying books through independent bookstores. Why? Book Passages is a major Bay Area venue for author events, classes, book groups, conferences and more. I saw this firsthand in 2006 when I covered a luncheon and book signing that drew 1,200 people to hear Barack Obama, then a U.S. senator and the author of “The Audacity of Hope.” Many book readers have a connection to this community institution and they will give it their business as a way to see it survive.

If consumer choices just changed, the battle for readers also just got a little more interesting. A key reason is that you currently can’t read a Google ebook on Amazon’s Kindle device. If you want to read an ebook on a Kindle, you have to buy it at Amazon. If you have an iPad, iPhone or most other devices, you apparently can open and read both the Google and the Amazon ebook versions.

Another interesting difference is how Google allows readers to access books. The typical approach has been to buy the ebook and download it to your reading device, smart phone, etc.  Book Passages says Google will let you do that, but it also allows you to keep the ebook stored on Google’s Internet “cloud” and to switch from one device to another easily: to start the day reading your ebook on a laptop and to switch later to your phone or other mobile device.

Readers, where will you buy books? What portion of the books you buy now are in print vs. digital format?  Which ebook devices are you using? Do the different formats give you any grief?

Writers, will you sell your ebooks on any or all the Google, Apple and Amazon formats? What factors do you consider crucial in this choice?

— Robert Digitale