Google ebookstore and resellers

 Interesting post today from Martin Taylor’s eReport Digital publishing downunder ‘Google pulls the plug on Ebook resellers including Dymocks and Booktopia’. I recommend reading this if you are interested in Booksellers and Ebooks and the challenges facing them as more reading migrates to digital.

I’ve been mulling this over since my email started running hot on the topic and thinking of the challenges for those bookstores hoping this was a solution for their ebook retailing. In Australia we do have a number of viable alternatives as covered in this post about the Google ebookstore launch in Australia – a mere five months ago!

Martin also gives us some interesting information about the solution announced by the Australian Publishers Association and Thorpe Bowker to partner with Copia:

Copia, with three years of development already behind it, still has some significant rough edges to iron out. Notable among them is its truly awful e-reading app which inexplicably requires scrolling through the ebooks (none of the easy page swipes that are offererd by all other e-readers); and it offers only basic formatting and a minimalist feature set. This is one of the most critical consumer-facing items so it’s surprising the service would launch in this state.

Martin Taylor from blog post Google pulls the plug on Ebook Resellers.

If this is the case it’s interesting to know why this solution has been chosen rather than working with one of the existing ones like ReadCloud? I’ve also heard (off the record) that it is more expensive for booksellers to work with Copia and that the bookseller essentially hands over their customer data.  I have to add this is what I’ve heard and I don’t have the inside word so I may be wrong! Am I? If you know I’d love to hear in the comments section.

It’s important to understand that Google will still be selling ebooks, just not through resellers. As part of My Year of Reading Australian Women Writers I’ve been reading across many different platforms, including Google. It’s been working well, the prices are good but I’ve only searched for titles not browsed and I gather the browsing experience is not great.

Pre-launch everyone saw Google Ebooks as a great possibility and in fact I just came across an old quote:

Google is going to turn every Internet space that talks about a book into a place where you can buy that book. The Google model is going to drive a lot of sales. We think they could get 20% of the e-book market very fast.

This was said by Dominique Raccah, Publisher and Owner of Sourcebooks Inc. I like what Sourcebook do, and Dominique has been leading the charge for many years – and had you heard they have just launched a subscription model?

But Google didn’t get that market share! In fact unconfirmed reports say that they achieved somewhere between 0.1 -0.5% of the US ebook market, with similar figures for the UK. And those figures are allegedly their TOTAL market share, including what is now Google Play. At Digital Book World booksellers discussed this on a panel (The Bookstore Renaissance: New experiments and innovations from independent booksellers) with most apparently saying Google ebooks had been about 2% of their total sales recently.

Why didn’t they achieve greater market share? When I was at Yale last year this was debated a few times throughout the week. The conclusion was that Google was a technology company – they released in Beta and relied on feedback from users to tweak the final experience. Compare that to Apple who generally only release when something is (they think) perfect. Is it that Google has not had much experience of being truly B2C (selling directly to consumers) or was the product just not right? Or was it that they didn’t get enough traction to continue to support resellers?

A digital publishing email group I’m on tried to analyse why they didn’t succeed and one (US Publisher) said that the transactional side was also frustrating for his business.

The only comforting side to all this is that Australian booksellers do have alternatives and our thriving Indie scene have a few options to choose from. I’m very interested in this side of the business so let’s see who fills the gap that Google Ebooks have left.

4 thoughts on “Google ebookstore and resellers

  1. In regard to costs there are three different level of costs for a bookseller when partnering with an eBook vendor:

    1. set up cost
    2. ongoing subscription fee (monthly or yearly)
    3. cost per transaction (amount vendor takes per eBook sold and fees like DRM or credit card)

    ReadCloud, and Copia are each different and more competitive in different areas.

    Personally I favour ReadCloud and believe they have more to offer long term and they do not sell direct. Stage two of TitlePage Plus maybe more open to other eBook vendors.

    Copia won’t be selling direct in Australia but as we have seen anything can change.

    I think TitlePage should have taken a more agnostic approach and also supported local vendors not international ones. Stage two of TitlePage Plus maybe more open to other eBook vendors.

    • Hi Dominique, thanks for your comment and for posting the link to Joe’s article. I liked his thoughts about how Google potentially could have approached one of the Big 6 about running (and measuring) DRM-free files. I too am disappointed, and I can only imagine how the booksellers feel that chose to partner with Google. Bear in mind this only launched in Australia late last year so those booksellers had barely got their ebook program off the ground. Like you, I believe this did have great potential, but they launched too late in Australia for many booksellers who were forced to find other solutions to get to market earlier. Sometimes it IS frustrating in Australia watching launches and thinking “when Australia?” Also, I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but in Australia we have a thriving independent bookselling scene with around 22% of the market being indies.

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