Thursday, April 5, 2012

Google Does a Little Harm to Indie Booksellers

So I opened my in box this morning to read this message from Oren Teicher of the American Booksellers Association:

"We were notified Tuesday afternoon by Google that they will be discontinuing the Google eBooks reseller program, worldwide, effective January 31, 2013. As you may be aware, the reseller program is Google's program as an e-book wholesaler to numerous online retailers, including IndieCommerce, as well as Powell's and other partners in the United States and around the world, including partners in Canada, the UK, France, and Australia. Google's decision to discontinue the program is, therefore, far larger than just IndieCommerce and the users of our product. After January 31, 2013, Google will sell e-books through Google Play only."

Needless to say, this is an unexpected turn of events for indie bookstores. We've been helping Google build a customer base, and now it's going to be yanked away from us. We've got about eight months on the program, but we're already feeling the lame duck effect. It's not that we're shocked--Google was slow at posting new titles, and had already tried to cut new users off the program. And then reversed shortly afterwards. What was up with that, given this turn of events?

Admittedly, we know that sales through this channel have been modest. The Kindle lock on selling content is now becoming standard for the industry*. Imagine if your CD player had forced you to buy only Sony CDs. Or your RCA television had only let you watch NBC programs (yes, they were once connected).

The note went on to state that the ABA is looking at varying options. I'm most interested to hear how the industries involved (publishing, booksellers, other tech companies) are going to react to this decision.

We'll keep you posted.

*I guess Apple was really the groundbreaker here with their music store.

Addendum: I took a break to buy supplies for the store, and heard the word that the justice department is close to a settlement that involves tearing up the contracts for ebook pricing on the agency model. Not everyone has agreed, but I think somehow that the Google annoucement is connected to this.

No comments: