Google Books Plans to Drop Independent Bookstores

Google Books Plans to Drop Independent Bookstores

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!

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?

4 Comments on "Google Books Plans to Drop Independent Bookstores"

  1. I would have bought one during their recent $0.49 sale … but Amazon matched prices.  So I bought everything from Amazon.  Honestly, given the choice, I would pay Amazon or Apple or B&N $1 rather than pay Google $0.49 … so at equal prices it isn’t even a thought.

    I have this icon on my iPad called ‘Play Books’ … not to be confused with what Coach uses during football season!  No, this is a reminder of the brain-dead naming scheme.  If you thing books matter to Google … look at that title.

    But if they have a Nexus Tablet coming, what will they do – I am assuming they will have ‘Play Books’ pre-installed.  But everyone already has their Kindle or Nook library and will just install those apps – and the Amazon Appstore in order to BUY apps along with the freebies they grab from Google.

  2. I bought a couple of books from the Google bookstore that were unavailable elsewhere.  Unfortunately, they were poorly scanned versions at a low enough resolution that fine-print items were almost impossible to read and they required that I obtain Adobe authentication, etc. etc.   Sad, really.   Google has finally started to put up small warnings about these low-quality scans, but too late for my purchases. Oh, and when I contacted them about it I got an initial “thanks for contacting us….” email but nothing else – no response to my complaints.  Yeah – I wouldn’t cry if they disappeared from the scene.

    Yeah – buying from Apple or Amazon or even B&N is a MUCH more pleasant and satisfying experience, and I will be making those choices even if the price is higher than Google.  Google’s “hands-off” approach to things is definitely NOT consumer friendly even if the initial price is.

  3. Colin Steadman | April 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

    I’ve got quite a few books from them. I prefer them because it’s all web based, I can read the books anywhere I can find a net connection, no app required. The thing I really hate about Google is the lack of content. Many of the books I want are simply not available.

  4. I’ve bought a few — so far, a few “singles” as well as textbooks that I just needed to skim a few chapters of — and also used it to preview some new books that I’d heard about. The ability to do so via independent bookstores (particularly a cooperative bookstore that I’m a member of) was definitely a factor in getting me to choose Google over Amazon, B&N, or other competitors, as was the ease of multi-platform access.

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