This Times article suggests that Google Print, the new feature that allows people to search the pages of actual books online, may provide a way for book publishers to circumvent the big bookstore chains:
In recent years, publishing executives have been quietly trying to figure out whether they can get rid of the middlemen – bookstores – and sell their products directly to consumers.
The problem has been that most book buyers do not pay close attention to which company publishes a book, and therefore consumers would be unlikely to go to a particular publisher’s Web site to peruse its offerings.
When Google Print generates a search result, however, it lists the book’s publisher alongside each book page. It would be relatively easy for publishers to insert themselves as one of the links that a Google Print user could use to buy the book.
Publishing executives are conscious of their current reliance on book retailers, particularly the big chains like Barnes & Noble and Borders as well as Amazon. As a result, the executives generally have been reluctant to discuss their direct-selling plans.
But two publishing executives who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Google Print was perhaps most intriguing because of the possibilities it presented for direct sales by publishers.