I can not express how sad this makes me. Google has announced that they will pull all support for selling e-books, from independent booksellers. They seem to be playing the same game that Apple and Amazon are. I guess starting in January 2013, they will be no different.
I am guessing their plans like: giving away the Android operating system, supporting the ebook infrastructure for bookstores, etc. just wasn’t paying off fast enough. So they’re copying the iTunes/Amazon model, with the launch of Google Play.
No doubt someone like Copia or Kobo will step in to fill the void, but I’m betting many many booksellers will just throw in the towel. Who can blame them? Why sign on with another service, if they can just be bought by Google or Amazon who kick the bookseller back to the curb?
The capitalist in me says Google is a business and needs to do what’s right for their business, just like all these indie bookstore owners have the right and should do what’s in their best interest. But I remember the materials that went out when Google was courting the American Booksellers Association and indie stores. None of it was conditional. None of it said “Now remember one day we may pull the plug”. At a minimum Google could preserve their “Do No Evil” mantra by supporting their current roster and just say “we won’t be taking on any more shops, because it’s not working like we thought”. That would be honest and fair to those shops who jumped on board to support ePub, Google Books and serve their store’s customers.
This really is another indicator that indie bookstores need to stay indie. Totally. They need to develop in-house talent for delivering books and products to their customers. They need to undertand how websites, Twitter, Facebook and ebook reader devices work. And they need to stay as close to their customers as they can. Hopefully groups like the ABA can step in and offer strategic help as lots of bookstores’ e-book sections go dark next January.
Now that I think about it, publishers really should get involved. I mean they want these shops to sell their books. I wonder what publishers could do to make it easy for indie store owners to sell their e-books… widgets… iframes… hmmm…