So when I got here, I noticed that several of my iPad apps had updates on offer, so I clicked and approved. One of them was Google Play. When it finished and I went to open the app, it told me that it needed to update my book files and this might take several minutes. Time passed and the screen filled in the covers of the 30 or 40 titles I keep live on the machine. Two of them were books I am actively reading for my teaching this fall.
But all of my books had un-downloaded and needed to be downloaded again. The app is an inefficient downloader, almost as bad as the New Yorker app, so I dreaded this, but clicked on the two I needed most at once. (I checked the amount of storage used, and indeed the files really have gone off my tablet.)
And it balked. It turns out that because I am not in a country where Google Books is an approved enterprise (which encompasses most of the countries on the planet), I cannot download. Local wisdom among the wizards here speculates that the undownloading occurred when the update noted that I was outside the US borders and so intervened.
At this point I still don't have any corroborating reports, so I am not inclined to believe this story. There's nothing in Google's support pages to back this up, I've never read about it before, and I can't find similar reports via Google.
If nothing else, the simple fact that Google only sells books in 27 countries would seem to increase the chances that this event would have happened and been reported. I have never heard of this happening before. Have you?
I have been told by Andrew Rhomberg, founder of ebook startup JellyBooks, that it's possible, but IMO it is also an incredibly stupid way to run a content store. No other ebookstore has policies anywhere close to this supposed policy, and that's the other reason I don't believe this story.
Update: On the other hand, a quick poll digital publishing insiders hasn't found anyone who thought it was impossible. In fact, one even went so far as to describe it as:
@thDigitalReader Google is much more crap at ebooks than at anything else. That their incompetence might reach those levels is believable.
— Baldur Bjarnason (@fakebaldur) August 17, 2013
If you have info to share, the comment section is open. And if you work for Google and know that this isn't true, give me something I can use to debunk it.
Update: The original source showed up in the comments and provided more details. Suddenly the story makes a lot more sense:
Two footnotes: (1) The books were not bought books, they were Google Books scanned 19th century books, all of them *clearly* public domain; (2) I have since discovered that about 6 of the 40 are in fact downloadable, but there is *no* pattern — volume 2 of Middlemarch is downloadable, but not volumes 1 or 3 of the same issue. The error message is that they don’t have Google Play in my country. — One technical point: my iPad had signaled that the app had an update available and I did that; it was doing the update that called attention to my extraterritoriality and zapped all my books. If I hadn’t touched the update, I would have probably been just fine.
I *do* think the Google Play app on the iPad is lousy. Takes *forever* to download things, so I will have 6-8 hours of watching grass grow when I get home and want the books back.
I have heard of any number of problems concerning Google Books, so I am not surprised to read of another.