Google books has never been a major player. They have a few fringe ebook readers, and they do have a few apps, but even on Android Google books is outclassed dramatically by the competition. I am very vocal about how much I dislike iBooks, but at least Apple packs the app full of features to give people incentive to try it. Google Books is so generic there is almost no reason to use it. Their biggest claim to fame was powering various independent bookstore’s ebooks, and Google has decided to end that program.
According to Publisher’s Weekly:
On Tuesday representatives of Google contacted the American Booksellers Association and Powell’s Books to announce that it will end its Google eBooks reseller program worldwide. In February, it had seemed as if independent booksellers were getting a reprieve when Google reinstated some affiliate stores that had low sales. But in yet another sign of industry consolidation, Google will start selling e-books solely through its recently launched Google Play beginning January 31, 2013.
CEO of the ABA Oren Teicher sent out a letter to ABA members this morning notifying them of the turn of events. “To say the least, we are very disappointed in Google’s decision,” wrote Teicher, “but we have every confidence that long before Google’s reseller program is discontinued, ABA will be able to offer IndieCommerce users a new alternative e-book product, or choice of products.” During the transition, Google eBooks will continue to be available on bookseller Web sites.
On the upside, at least Google hasn’t just stopped supporting the stores immediately. They are giving them 9 months to find another solution, but it is a bit odd. For the next 9 months, Google is going to have to find a way to make Google Books a serious ebook solution. They can’t rely on Powell’s and the other big independent stores to raise the profile of Google Books, and they need to find a way to get people browsing the Android Market Google Play store to buy ebooks.
Basically, they are competing with Amazon’s main market, just like Amazon has encroached on Google with the Amazon AppStore. The difference is that so far Amazon has been more successful on Google’s turf than vice versa. And Google isn’t just facing off against Amazon, but also against B&N, Kobo, Aldiko, and all the other ebook solutions available these days. Google had a major point of differentiation-they were supporting the independent bookstores. Now they are just another ebook store in a sea of them, and unless you really love Google there isn’t an advantage to buying through them over Amazon or B&N.
Personally, I think this is a step in one of two directions. Either Google is planning to exit the ebook world, and they needed to make this first step to unwind their affiliates neatly, or they are looking to consolidate their ebook store in advance of a Nexus Tablet with tight Google Books integration. Assuming they do plan to stay in the book space, they need something big and splashy to get people to even look at Google Books. Rumors have swirled since the Nexus One that a Nexus tablet is in the works, and I could easily see Google consolidating their media offerings in advance of hopefully branding and selling more content.
I am curious, though: has anyone actually purchased a Google Book? Do you use the service? If so, was it through Google Books directly or via an independent bookstore? Let us know in the comments!