What are eBooks? WikiPedia says an eBook is “the digital media equivalent of a conventional printed book … usually read on a PC or … an e-book reader.”
This sounds like what Peter Brantley calls “the older model” of eBooks that are “downloadable and packaged … into dedicated readers.” The newer idea that Brantley suggests, in contrast, is of eBooks that will be “consumed over the network.”
In common usage, Google Books are not usually considered to be in the category of eBooks (The Wikipedia eBooks article linked above doesn’t mention Google). In Brantley’s language, though — eBooks being used on the network — I would suggest that full-view books in Google Books are in fact eBooks.
The eBook meme does seem to be changing — There’s indication that the term eBook is coming to be applied to Google Books — A recent Christian Science Monitor article on Google Books, refers to them in the title as “e-books.” The article quotes prominent blogger Siva Vaidhyanathan to the effect that Google is coming to dominate “the digital book world,” with the clear implication (with “e-Book” being in the article title) that Google Books are in the category of eBooks.
Browser-worthy small-scale devices like the iPhone and the G1/Google phone/Android make it increasingly likely that Google Books will be put in the same category as dedicated e-book services like the Amazon Kindle. Especially for reading books that have pictures, reading Google books in a browser is clearly preferable to using the Kindle, which does not even have color.