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Is the Hiatus Ending? Google Play Books Launches in Norway

Google quietly launched a local ebookstore in Norway last week, ending a 6 month long drought. The new store sells ebooks in krone, and it has been customized for Norwegian (mostly):


This launch ended a 6 month period of me wondering what the bleep was going on with Google Play Books.

Last year Google was launching ebookstores left and right. Every month to 6 weeks Google would quietly add anywhere from five to a dozen local ebookstores to Google Play Books at a single go, but that ended in December 2013 with a push into Latin America.

They were up to 44 countries when their expansion stalled in December, making Norway the 45th country to have a local Google Play Books.  I can’t tell you why Google stopped, but this was an issue which I was watching carefully and I was planning to comment on the stoppage at some point.

In Norway, Google faces local competitors as well as Amazon, Nook, and iBooks. (Amazon has not launched a local Kindle Store in Norway, but they do support the language.)

P.S. Does anyone know the size of the Norwegian ebook market, or who the leading ebook retailers are? I lack the info, and I would like to know.

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Anders June 9, 2014 um 5:06 am

There are quite a lot of ebook readers in Norway, albeit nowhere near the percentages in for instance the US. This is the situation in other Scandinavian countries as well. We have a lot of purchase power over here, but the interest in e-books is just not that high. Most e-reading people I know buy a lot from international stores. A very simple reason for this is that the Kindle is popular, and most people aren’t interested in the hassle of de-DRM to be able to use books from local retailers. The prices of Norwegian ebooks are very high (about $40-$60 for high profile new releases, and about $15-$25 for the "paperback" segment of older releases).

Sales numbers are notoriously difficult to come by, as the biggest actors are very reluctant to share. The interest in e-publishing is not very high among the big publishers; I’d guess that at least more than half of all releases never are made into ebooks.

My experience comes from being the sole producer of ebooks in a small academic publishing house. Our ebooks are of good technical quality, but every single one involved pestering the editor in charge of each publication to even consider a digital release. Marketing of ebooks were non-existent, and sales were thus as one could expect. Our portfolio included a number of "pop-sci" releases, mostly within the humanities, and *should* have had some sales potential if only people had known about them. I know a few authors of fiction, and have heard from them that the situation is similar in other publishing houses as well.

The public libraries have embraced ebook lending. However, they have rolled their own DRM-solution with proprietary apps and software of horrendous quality, lacking basic features such as "make sure most of the text is visible on the page". Sadly they didn’t go for Overdrive or similar solutions. I must admit that I haven’t checked it out lately, but hold no high hopes when the software could even make it out the door in its initial state, where it was quite literally unusable.

There are a couple of publisher-owned pure ebook stores (,, which seem to be doing OK. Many online outlets for p-books also carry ebooks, all also owned by the largest publishing houses in Norway. The line between publishing houses and book retailers is really blurry here, something which is of course not in anyone’s interest but the publishing houses themselves. The largest ones are,,, and There is also, which is owned by a consortium of book sales clubs. There are no significant independent stores that I know of.

This turned out to be quite a rambling post, and my knowledge is admittedly a little outdated since I no longer work in the business, but I hope you get the gist of it 🙂

Nate Hoffelder June 17, 2014 um 10:00 am

I got the gist. Thanks!

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