So it looks like Google didn't see the growth they wanted in the reseller program they launched with the Google eBookstore back in 2010; today they announced that they plan to end the program in January 2013.
The news broke today with the letter that Oren Teicher, the CEO of the ABA. (I've added the letter to the end of the post, in case you're interested.) Google has also confirmed the news in a blog post.
Google's going to be cutting ties to all 16 reseller partners, including Powell's Books and the ABA IndieCommerce program (which supports about 150 indie bookstores). The ABA is promising to have an alternative in place before the end comes around.
Google had this reseller program for about 18 months, and while that isn't long period of time it's still 18 months longer than B&N or Amazon, who have never expressed interest in launching similar programs. On the other hand, today's news shows that they might have had the right idea; this program didn't generate the sales Google expected.
Now, I'm running a few minutes behind everyone else on this story because I took some time to confirm details with Google. You might recall that a couple months back Google thinned the ranks of their ebookstore affiliates. The surface details of the 2 stories sound enough alike that I got to wondering how they are related, so I asked Google.
According to a Google spokesman, the affiliate program and the reseller program are not the same thing. Today's news only affects the bookstores who were resellers (like the ABA IndieCommerce). Any bookstore who was a Google affiliate will not be affected by this closure.
If you're not sure whether your local bookseller will be affected, there's an easy way to tell. If that bookstore sends you to Google to buy the ebook then they are an affiliate. They will still be able to send you to Google to buy the ebooks.
We were notified Tuesday afternoon by Google that they will be discontinuing the Google eBooks reseller program, worldwide, effective January 31, 2013. As you may be aware, the reseller program is Google’s program as an e-book wholesaler to numerous online retailers, including IndieCommerce, as well as Powell’s and other partners in the United States and around the world, including partners in Canada, the UK, France, and Australia. Google’s decision to discontinue the program is, therefore, far larger than just IndieCommerce and the users of our product. After January 31, 2013, Google will sell e-books through Google Play only.
To say the least, we are very disappointed in Google’s decision, but, we have every confidence that, long before Google’s reseller program is discontinued, ABA will be able to offer IndieCommerce users a new alternative e-book product, or choice of products, that will not only replace Google eBooks as it currently works on IndieCommerce sites but that will be in many ways a better product.
From the start, we have recognized certain realities of our working with Google. As an enormous, multinational corporation, Google has interests far beyond independent bookstores, and the book world at large, and, at times, it has lacked understanding of many basic principles of our industry. Also, recognizing that it is never advantageous to rely too solely on only one vendor, throughout the time of our relationship with Google, ABA has been actively engaged in talking to many other potential industry partners, in case the need arose to replace or to supplement Google’s offering.
As you recall, we partnered with Google in 2010 because it was the only viable means for us to enter the e-book market, but, like so much else in our industry, things have changed rapidly, and we have options that simply did not exist 18 months ago. While we know that our volume of e-book sales has been modest, we also know that being able to offer e-books to your customers is an indispensable feature of any bookstore’s web offerings, and this capacity has helped drive online traffic that has contributed to increased overall sales. Moreover, we’ve all learned a lot about selling e-books in the last year and a half, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to build an improved product.
We are totally committed to providing IndieCommerce stores the means to continue to sell e-books, and, at minimum, we expect to move forward quickly with one or more partners who will better understand — and who will maintain closer ties to — your stores, and to the book industry in general.
We recognize that this is a significant development, and I want to underscore that, in this transition period, Google eBooks will continue to be available via your websites. We also have every reason to believe that e-books purchased from your store will persist in your customers’ Google Accounts after the reseller program ends. We will share additional details as we learn them.
I know that change can be disconcerting and disruptive, but with input from the ABA Board, our Digital Task Force, and our Indie Commerce Advisory Council, we will get through this, and, in the end, I am confident that we will be able to offer a better and more robust e-book product.
If you have any questions, please, don’t hesitate to contact me or Matt Supko, ABA’s Technology Director.
Oren J. Teicher
Chief Executive Officer
American Booksellers Association