Google is in the final stages of launching its long-awaited e-book retailing venture, Google Editions, a move that could shake up the way digital books are sold.

The long-delayed venture -- Google executives had said they hoped to launch this summer -- recently has cleared several technical and legal hurdles, people close to the company say. It is set to debut in the U.S. by the end of the year and internationally in the first quarter of next year, said Scott Dougall, a Google product management director.

In recent weeks, independent booksellers, which are expected to play a big role in Google Editions, began receiving contracts from their trade group. Several publishers said they were exchanging files with Google -- a sign that it is close to launch, publishers say.

"Because of the complexity of this project, we didn't want to come out with something that wasn't thorough," Mr. Dougall said.

Google Editions hopes to upend the existing e-book market by offering an open, "read anywhere" model that is different from many competitors. Users will be able to buy books directly from Google or from multiple online retailers -- including independent bookstores -- and add them to an online library tied to a Google account. They will be able to access their Google accounts on most devices with a Web browser, including personal computers, smartphones and tablets.

Read the full story at the Wall Street Journal.