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Google eBooks launches -- freedom from devices?

Google ebooks launched today, and the search giant's long-awaited entry into the world of digital books holds the promise of freeing us from the tyranny of proprietary devices. As is fitting for the company that wants to gobble up the online world, its eBookstore is huge -- with more than three million offerings stored in the digital cloud.

Amazon's Kindle dominates the e-reader market, but competition has intensified thanks to Barnes & Noble's Nook, Apple's iPad and other devices. But moving a digital book from one device to another was a problem.

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Google wants to open up a broader market by promising to sell fully portable e-books that can be used on your phone, laptop, tablet and desktop, as this cute animation shows. Google says you can read its offerings on any browser with JavaScript, on Android and iPhone smartphones, and on dozens of other devices, including the Nook and Sony Readers.

One gaping hole is the Kindle, and Google notes wistfully, "Currently, Google eBooks are not compatible with Amazon Kindle devices, though we are open to supporting them in the future." (The Kindle has made its own play for transferability, with apps that can be used on an iPad, BlackBerry and other devices.)

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For the moment, even digital freedom has its limits.

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