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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 12/14/2010

Google, GPO strike an e-Book deal

By Ed O'Keefe


In this screen shot the Google books Web site is shown. It launched a separate e-bookstore Dec. 6, drawing on many of the 15 million printed books that Google has scanned into its computers during the past six years. (AP)

Eye Opener

Looking for new titles to stock your mobile reading device? How about a copy of the 2011 federal budget? Or a history of the space race?

Hundreds of federal publications are now available for download and purchase through the new Google eBookstore, the search engine giant and Government Printing Office are set to announce Tuesday. Ultimately about 1,800 government publications will be available for download and purchase, GPO said.

The partnership, which quietly launched last week, allows e-Book fans to search for and buy copies of documents ranging from the public papers of President Obama's administration to an official history of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Potential e-readers can purchase government titles online at prices lower than the print versions, the GPO said. A print copy of Obama's 2011 federal budget proposal costs $77.00, for example, but a Google eBook version sells for $9.99. (A PDF version of the document is free.)

Google began converting millions of books and documents into electronic format in 2004 and is bearing the costs of converting the government documents, GPO said.

The e-Books are viewable on PCs and Macintosh computers and laptops, Apple's iPad, Sony's Reader, the Barnes and Noble Nook and Android-based phones, according to Google. The search engine last week launched its new Internet book store in a direct challenge to market leader Amazon.com. About 4,000 publishers, including heavyweights Simon & Schuster and Random House, Inc., are selling electronic versions of their books through the Google store.

GPO is the venture's only government partner, the agency said. It produces, catalogs and preserves most of the federal government's documents and publications, and operates an online bookstore and a small shop at its North Capitol St. NW headquarters, where foot traffic is light. GPO publication revenues peaked at $100 million in the 1980s; the agency has turned smaller profits in recent years, coming mostly from the publication of security documents. The new partnership appears to signal a further shift into the digital age.

"e-Books is something we should be involved in. People are gravitating towards this, and we want to provide the public with the option," said Davita Vance-Cooks, GPO's managing director for publications and information sales.

This year GPO also has relaunched its online archives and helped redesign the Federal Register's Web site. The GPO book blog also highlights long-lost or new publications that may be of interest to bookworms.

But the new partnership begs a question: If the agency is doing less actual printing and providing access to more its publications online, is GPO still necessary? Or does the Government Printing Office perhaps need a new name? (Maybe the Government Publications Office?) The comments section below awaits your thoughts.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | December 14, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Eye Opener  
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Comments

As to the question of whether GPO is necessary in the digital age, the answer is a resounding yes. Government publications must have a central source of distribution.

Whether it needs to print thousands of Congressional Records every year, passed out to Members and staff is another question. Is it really necessary to have paper copies when it's available electronically? Wouldn't this save a lot of money?

Perhaps Congress should look in the mirror and cut costs in a practical way in their own house. Thousands of little ideas could reap millions of savings.

Posted by: eileenmilt1 | December 14, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

The GPO is also responsible for printing security-enhanced invitations for government events and the like. Printing for the U.S. government will always be necessary and their mandate.

Posted by: billducks | December 14, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

GPO is overdue to change it's name to the Government Publications office since it has for some years made some documents available on CDs . It does raise a question of just how large a staff it needs if it ceases printing on paper. Those huge parking lots in and the number of trucks and vans it has could be reduced for some savings. One of the money savings suggested by a Federal Employee which received an award is eliminating paper copies of the Federal Register for Federal employees in her department who all have computers.

Posted by: danmaceda | December 14, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

New name for the new game, Gov. Pub Office.
Hire an unemployed Conservative to oversee changes, applying incentive for this new employee a dividend of 10% for all wasteful spending cuts in a two year time frame. Nothing wins 'em like the real green stuff. Hey, that's yet another reason to read ebooks. Now, download GRANT ME. You'll never underestimate your dog or God again. Sassy Southern suspense follows Serenity Prayer. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/GRANT-ME/Stephanie-M-Sellers/e/2940011917189/?itm=1&USRI=grant+me Enjoy!
Also w/Amazon for Kindle.

Posted by: StephanieMSellers | December 14, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

New name for the new game, Gov. Pub Office.
Hire an unemployed Conservative to oversee changes, applying incentive for this new employee a dividend of 10% for all wasteful spending cuts in a two year time frame. Nothing wins 'em like the real green stuff. Hey, that's yet another reason to read ebooks. Now, download GRANT ME. You'll never underestimate your dog or God again. Sassy Southern suspense follows Serenity Prayer. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/GRANT-ME/Stephanie-M-Sellers/e/2940011917189/?itm=1&USRI=grant+me Enjoy!
Also w/Amazon for Kindle.

Posted by: StephanieMSellers | December 14, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Keep the name the same.

It saves money. After all they would have to design a new logo, may be a new moto, new business cards, new letter heads, if they change there name. Administration costs involve are usually very high for changing names.

Keep the name the same but reduce it size over time an decrease costs.

Posted by: davidknowles2 | December 14, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

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