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Google e-books: Are book prices headed down? To zero?

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ZUMA Press/Newscom/File

(Read caption) Library staffs and the University of California, Santa Clara, truck a small portion of the thousands of books the universities will send to Google to be scanned for the Google book search engine in this 2008 file photo. The company launched its ebook site Monday, featuring more than 2 million titles that are free.

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Google's new e-bookstore opened Monday with a compelling vision of the future of reading.

In this new future, your library becomes electronic and virtually unlimited. The books you're reading move seamlessly from, say, your computer to your e-reader to your smartphone.

And, oh, what you pay for many of those books will probably be coming down.

That last point isn't mentioned in any company releases, but it's something the book industry is deeply worried about and consumers can celebrate.

Amazon.com got the ball rolling by selling $10 e-books – at a loss – for its popular Kindle e-reader. Now, the new Google site matches Amazon on price and offers an added perk: free books, more than 2 million of them, available for download from its site.

"We set out to make the information stored in the world’s books accessible and useful online," Abraham Murray, product manager of Google Books in an official blog post. "Since then, we’ve digitized more than 15 million books from more than 35,000 publishers, more than 40 libraries, and more than 100 countries in more than 400 languages."

The ability to download free books isn't new, but juxtaposed with Google's hundreds of thousands of e-books now for sale, it brings home the point that the price pressures on books point mostly downward.

For example: The e-bookstore offers a digital download of Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Great Expectations" for $7.99. But prominently displayed below is a digital copy of "A Tale of Two Cities" for free.

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