Update: As of late November, the portal is still closed to new sign ups.
The Partner Center is Google's name for the place where authors and publishers upload books to sell in Google Play. It is now closed to new registrations, and anyone who tries to sign up will see this:
I'm still waiting for a response from Google (it's Memorial Day), but I can tell you at this time that this is what they told the Sell More Books Podcast:
If you can't see the image, a Google rep posted the text in the support forums:
We’ve temporarily closed new publisher sign ups in the Play Books Partner Center, so we can improve our content management capabilities and our user experience. We’re working to reopen this to new publishers soon. Thanks for your patience.
To be clear, this has now been confirmed from several sources.
I could be jumping to conclusions, but it looks to me like Google has decided that it was time they took piracy seriously, and apparently their first step is to stop letting pirates set up new accounts. This is temporary, of course, and will probably only last until Google has added algorithms which will actively identify and flag pirated ebooks in Google Play Books (ideally, something like ContentID in Youtube).
I've said this before but it bears repeating.
More so than any other ebook retailer, Google has a problem with rampant commercial ebook piracy. Thanks to Google's complete indifference, ebook pirates can set up shop in Google Play Books - and I mean that literally - and upload copy after copy after copy of a pirated ebook secure in the knowledge that Google won't do anything more than respond to a specific DMCA notice.
And now that is going to change (or so I hope).
While I would like to take the credit, Google would probably still be ignoring this issue if not for the fact that the Dutch publishers trade group NUV, or Nederlands Uitgeversverbond, took an interest after Google said that there was nothing they could do about an obvious commercial ebook pirate.
As I reported in my last post, the NUV is far more powerful than a lone blogger or individual publishers. It has the resources both to file an expensive lawsuit and to launch a PR campaign to embarrass Google, but more importantly the NUV also has the connections and the gravitas to grab Google's attention and make Google fix the problem.
And I think the NUV got Google's attention. It was two days after I published my last post that Google stopped accepting new registrations in the Partner Center.
The Partner Center has been locked for 5 days now while Google is doing something behind the scene. They have yet to share any details but let's hope that includes adding ways to detect pirates.
I am of course waiting for a response from Google. If you hear something, please leave a message and let me know.