Google might not see any value in working with indie booksellers but clearly someone else does. Kobo and the American Bookseller Association have just announced a new partnership. Starting this fall, ABA members will be able to sell ebooks on behalf of Kobo.
The details of the partnership still aren't clear yet, so right now I don't know if each bookseller will be able to sell via their own website or if they'll simply direct customers to Kobo. There's an important difference here, because booksellers would benefit from the higher degree of interaction by selling the ebooks themselves. It's also not clear whether Kobo will be replacing Google as the partner in the IndieCommerce program. Google announced some months back that they were withdrawing from the program due to poor results.
All I can tell is that Kobo will be probably be working with the 400 current members of the IndieCommerce, but since the program is not mentioned by name I cannot confirm that detail. About the only detail I can currently confirm is that the booksellers will also have the option of selling the Kobo Touch in store.
FYI: IndieCommerce is a program offered to ABA members by the ABA. It assists them in maintaining a website (where they can sell stuff) and in selling ebooks, which are currently supplied via Ingram and Google. Only about 400 of the ABA's two thousand members have signed up for IndieCommerce, which should tell you something about the program's popularity.
Folks, part of the reason why I'm reporting this as a vague story is that there is a difference between selling an ebook and being an affiliate. When Google signed up to supply ebooks to the IndieCommerce program, they also allowed booksellers to sign up as affiliates of the Google eBookstore. That latter group did not sell ebooks but simply directed customers to Google and received a commission for their efforts. I suppose the difference is academic to most readers but I want to have my details correct.
If you like, you can assume that the WSJ article is correct in every detail
, but as for me I plan to wait to hear back from the ABA. I've read the WSJ for some years now and I've lost count of the times the WSJ has edited a published story without posting a note. Some of the revisions have been radical in nature and changed the tone and sometimes even the topic of the article.
Update: And now it looks like I was correct. The ABA hasn't disclosed all that many details yet, so the WSJ article is likely at least partly wrong. Here is what I was told:
You are correct, many features of the partnership have not be disclosed publicly as we've wanted to have time to converse first with members. They are learning of the partnership this morning only slightly in advance of the press release.
The partnership is deeper than what would be found in a simple affiliate model and the choices available to members will affect how it operates and what is experienced by readers. There are roughly 400 members using the ABA-sponsored e-commerce platform IndieCommerce and we will be able to integrate the Kobo catalog directly in to these websites' search results. Members not using the IndieCommerce platform will be able to sell eBooks through a link. Also, of course, readers can buy ebooks via the Kobo device purchased at participating store.
So this deal is not simply a one-for-one switch of Google and Kobo, in spite of the many reports claiming that. I'm still not clear on what's going on, but at least O know that.
Heck, even the response from the ABA is not completely clear. But I can live with that.