Ditch Google now: ABA president

How the news broke.

Australian Booksellers Association president Jon Page reckons Dymocks and Booktopia should immediately close their ebookstores and find a new partner after Google announced it would pull out of its deals with the pair from January 2013.

Page was not surprised by the development (read his blog post on it here).

“I always thought there were too many risks partnering with Google,” he said.

“If I were Dymocks or Booktopia I would shut down my eBook store ASAP and find an alternative quickly. ”

Google announced it was pulling the plug on its reseller program with booksellers just before Easter – shrewd timing that meant the mainstream media mostly ignored the news.

The program only launched in Australia five months ago.

Booksellers who had partnered with Google when they opened their ebookstore, including Dymocks and Booktopia in Australia, now face weeks or even months of uncertainty.

From the end of January next year, Google will move to selling ebooks through its Google Play interface only – though current retail partners could look to end the relationship and start afresh with a new supplier sooner.

According to the official announcement here, results to date demonstrated that “the reseller program has not met the needs of many readers or booksellers”.

I’m interpreting this as “no one much was buying Google eBooks via resellers” – and why would they, when they could always go direct to the Google eBooks site.

No matter how poor sales have been, the process will have been a worthwhile one for Google. The access it has had to Dymocks and Booktopia customers in terms of publicity and sales will have made sure of that.

Others agree. Here’s a quote from a comment on the Google announcement:

“Google eBooks was the only way the independent bookstore where I worked was able to jump into the digital book world, a necessary piece of the future of bookselling. It met the needs of all my customers who tried digital books for the first time and all my customers who wanted to support the little guy with every book purchase. Many of my customers got Google accounts so they could buy eBooks through our website. I feel betrayed, like Google strung us and the ABA along, using us as guinea pigs as they developed their eBook market presence.”

Here’s the official response I received to my email queries from Google Global Communications and Public Affairs Manager Kate Mason:

“Our ebooks reseller program has not been as successful as we’d hoped so we will be phasing it out next year. We want to give partners as much notice as possible so they have time to make adjustments. This change stems from that strategy and the feedback we’ve received from most ebook readers, publishers and resellers.”

Neither Dymocks nor Booktopia have responded to emails. Booktopia was still “proud to partner with Google to offer our Australian readers thousands of Google eBooks™ from a wide variety of international and local publishers” on its ebookstore homepage. Their only reference on Twitter was this:

@seandblogonaut: @booktopia are you still offering eBooks via google? hearing reports that you are not?
@booktopia: @SeandBlogonaut We are until next January.

Dymocks, too, is still spruiking the partnership on its website.

QBD The Bookshop and The Co-op Bookshop had both signed with Google ahead of the Google eBooks launch in Australia last November, but neither was yet selling ebooks by last week.

The other huge ebook news story of last week somewhat overshadowed the Google news (happily for Google). You can read it here. The US Justice Department and 15 states sued Apple Inc. and major book publishers last Wednesday, alleging a conspiracy that raised the price of electronic books.

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Charlotte Harper

Charlotte Harper is a Canberra journalist, blogger, editor and publisher who has worked in newspapers, magazines, books and online. She runs digital-first non-fiction publisher Editia and covered book industry developments at ebookish.com.au before joining Booku.com. A former literary editor of The South China Morning Post, Charlotte has also written about books and technology for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times. She once edited a mobile phone and gadget magazine, and is a published author, of a book about digital publishing – Weird Wild Web (Penguin Australia 1999).