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Google’s "Temporary" Shut Down of Its eBook Publisher Portal Approaches the Two-Month Mark

Partner Center google play booksDoes anyone know what is going on behind the scenes at Google Play Books?

About two months ago Google surprised us all when they abruptly stopped letting authors and book publishers sign up to sell ebooks in Google Play Books. They offered no real explanation as to why they were declining new partners, instead telling us that they would "soon" end the "temporary" closure once they had improved their content management capabilities and their user experience.

That temporary closure has been going on for two months now (less one week) and Google is just as mum on the topic today as they were when I broke the news in May. They’re not letting new people in, and they won’t say why.

Does anyone have the inside story on what Google is doing behind the scenes? Do they ever plan to start dealing directly with new authors and publishers again?

To be clear, Google hasn’t stopped selling ebooks, but they have stopped new authors from selling ebooks in Google Play Books. Only a single aggregator, eBookPartnership, claims to distribute to Google Play Books (Smashwords, Ingram Spark, BookBaby, and Draft2Digital do not list the store on their websites).

Edit: I was told on Twitter that Vearsa also distributes to Google Play Books. (Thanks, Dan!)

And that is concerning, folks. Google Play Books may not be a huge market everywhere and authors may not think it’s worth their time, but to be shut out?

That is a problem, and it is one that Google won’t talk about.

Hey, Google, how about talking to your business partners for once?


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Mackay Bell July 13, 2015 um 12:04 pm

It’s interesting that writers still complain about Amazon asking for exclusivity (in exchange for specific perks) when you have major companies like Google who refuse to let you publish, or insist you go through an aggregator (Oyster), or who dump books that are too popular (Scribd), or who delay in reporting and making payments (Smashwords).

Amazon makes it very easy for anyone to publish, for free, and fairly collects, reports and distributes revenue. That’s still a pretty big and amazing thing.

eFTy July 27, 2015 um 9:52 am

You’re right that Amazon is the easiest distributor to deal with, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call them out on the issues they drop the ball on. You can’t make any price promotions if you’re not selling with them exclusively, for instance, and they still refuse to officially distribute ebooks in a lot of languages.

Even though Google Play is far, far worse in terms of accessibility, that doesn’t mean what Amazon is doing is acceptable.

Sean Kelley July 13, 2015 um 11:43 pm

With Google, everything is a beta and subject to change. It’s not limited to their Google Play, I see that with other products as well from them.

Ebook Bargains UK July 14, 2015 um 6:17 am

"Only a single aggregator, eBookPartnership, claims to distribute to Google Play Books "

In addition to Vearsa – not really aimed at self-publishers, with its fifty-title minimum – both Xin-Xii and Narcissus distribute indie titles to Google Play.

What is remarkable is that the two giants of the indie-aggregator world, Smashwords and Draft2Digital – still do not.

At this stage it’s not clear if eBook Partnership, Narcissus and Xin-Xii are still able to put indie titles into Google Play while the public-access portal is closed. Knowing that would give us a better idea of whether this is a measure against self-pubbed titles or simply an issue taking a long time to resolve.

Nate Hoffelder July 14, 2015 um 6:20 am

Thanks for the correction.

Amanda Greenslade July 15, 2015 um 11:08 pm

We distribute to Google Play Books as well.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 27, 2015 um 2:52 pm

I distribute to Google and have for some time. Their interface needs work. It’s one of the hardest to navigate. It’s also confusing and their sales reports are…astoundingly difficult to manage.

@Bell It’s just as easy, if not easier, to distribute directly with Kobobooks as it is with Amazon–no exclusivity required. They are by far my favorite retailer just because of that fact right there. Their interface is excellent, their payments prompt and their customer service excellent.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 27, 2015 um 2:58 pm

Also, the existing portal does still work. I released Executive Dirt this week and one of the places I uploaded was Google Play. Nothing had changed as far as requirements or interface. If the delay in allowing new authors/publishers is related to their interface, I can believe it would take quite some time to switch things over, test and get a new interface up and running.

Nate Hoffelder July 27, 2015 um 3:18 pm

You’re telling me.

I uploaded a book last Thursday, and I’m still waiting for it to go live.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 27, 2015 um 3:55 pm

If it’s taking that long, check for an error. They won’t EMAIL you if there is an error or anything modern like that. The outermost layer will say "processing" but if you go through the screens you may find an error. For example, if it doesn’t pass epub check, the file will fail, but it won’t really tell you that. You have to figure it out by looking at where you uploaded the file–on that screen check for errors.

It can fail for a few reasons, but the longest it’s taken to go live is about 24 hours. Anything else is probably an error.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 27, 2015 um 3:57 pm

Nice avatar, btw. It’s about time! You needed a very cool avatar!

Anthony Pero August 6, 2015 um 1:13 pm

Was listening to a podcast featuring one of the co-creators of Draft2digital, and he was saying that the issue is that Google’s terms and Amazon’s terms don’t play nice with each other. So automating the process of using both is problematic.

Nate Hoffelder August 6, 2015 um 1:21 pm

Yes, and that’s why a lot of authors avoid GPB.

But it doesn’t explain why the Partner Center remains shuttered.

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