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The Google ebookstore is not a serious threat to the Kindle (and why I’m not shopping there)

I decided to get a head start on all the pundits that tomorrow are going to post  stories with titles like "GE will Kill the Kindle". I’m not going to discuss the obvious format issue (I don’t think it’s that important). But I did find a problem. I’ve been looking over GE since it launched this morning, and I think it’s missing a critical component.

Customer service.

This is Google’s biggest failing.

I recall back when Google  were selling movies online, and what happened when they canceled the service.  Anyone who’d bought one was simply SOL. Google only reversed their position after a public outcry.

I recall when Google killed a bunch of music blogs without warning, and I recall how several never did get back online (in spite of following Google’s procedures).

I recall a bunchaton of stories about owners of Google phones asking for tech help and the only response they got was a link to a FAQ (if that).

And then there is Google Books, where Google are letting claim a copyright on pd titles.

I’m looking over the GE website today, and there’s no clear way to reach out to Google if you have a problem. (Okay, there is one, but it’s hidden at the bottom of the page. You’ll only find it if you know it’s there.) Google are good at building monolithic systems, but they’re not good at catching what falls through the cracks.

On the other hand, Google could prove me wrong.

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Zigwalski December 6, 2010 um 3:54 pm

I agree. I won’t be buying from them. Not unless they take over every other bookstore or I find out they are super cheap compared to everyone else. I did a quick comparison and have not found them to be any cheaper.

gous December 6, 2010 um 3:56 pm

Well yes, except that GE will also act as a wholesaler. People buying google books through say Powells are likely to complain to that bookstore if anything goes wrong.

Suspect that Google will ultimately want (most) customers buying through their supported retailers. It creates an insulating layer between them and those pesky customers.

Peter December 6, 2010 um 4:42 pm

I have to agree with gous here. Google here is acting purely as a middleman. They don’t write, edit, or publish the books (publisher’s and author’s do that). They don’t make the e-readers (nook, kobo and sony do), or manage the DRM (adobe does that) and in many cases they won’t even directly handle your transaction (the independent booksellers will). Their only job is to help buyers find sellers.

So why would you need any backend support from them?

Ed Renehan December 6, 2010 um 5:06 pm

Completely agree.

Stormrider December 7, 2010 um 2:51 am

Absolutely agree, one of the biggest strengths Amazon has is their customer orientation. Though their growth over the past couple of years has been huge, they have never forgotten about that. At least I never had any problems with them, neither as a customer or affiliate. I am pretty sure that Google, because they come from a completely different end of the spectrum, will soon catch the first negative reviews and will start to struggle.

Luqman December 7, 2010 um 9:39 am

I beg to differ about the format being an issue. If I can only read a book online (which is true of many books that I am interested in), that is a serious issue. If what I can view online or, in some cases, download, is nothing but a scanned image, that is a serious issue. It’s especially annoying if they are going to sell the reflowable version of a book (Irreducible Mind) for three times the price of the scanned image version. The latter is twice the price of the dead tree version. Annoying.

Nate the great December 7, 2010 um 9:58 am

Format is an issue, but my point was that Epub vs Kindle wasn’t a serous issue.

HOW TO: Access the Google eBookstore Internationally (sadly, there’s a catch) | Bookbee Ebooks December 7, 2010 um 10:34 pm

[…] States, you may remember yesterday kicking the cat while bloggers around the world were flipping (or not) over the Google eBookstore. Or the dog. Or burning an effigy of Sergey Brin (more pet-friendly). […]

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