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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Google's eBookstore

Google has launched its eBookstore to take advantage of the millions of books it has scanned. And grab some of the revenue that Amazon and others have been raking in as ebook sales finally begin to take off. The eBookstore has some interesting features, of which the most useful is that they intend to help independent bookstores. How? By cutting them in on a slice of the pie... Google's standard terms are 70% for the publisher and 30% for Google. If you're an independent bookseller, you can put the book up on your web site and Google will give you a slice of that 30%. How much? That hasn't been disclosed, because the deals vary from bookseller to bookseller.

An independent bookstore that's cut a deal with Google can put ebooks from Google on its web site, and at least make some of the revenue. Right now there's really no way for a bookstore to get any slice of what Amazon or iBookstore is selling. Google clearly wants to try and enlist some help from retailers who are otherwise left with a shrinking number of physical book sales while Apple and Amazon rake in the money from the fast-growing ebook market.

I'm not sure if more independent booksellers will glom onto this opportunity, or if it will really help them out. But it certainly can't hurt, and it's a glimmer of hope in a dark time for bookstores. I think bookstores will have to push harder on the social aspects of their business; a gathering place for book lovers, coffee drinkers, authors and enthusiasts to meet and share their love for knowledge.

Google's eBooks effort still has issues to deal with, though. Their free Google Books app is not as polished as similar apps, and clearly needs work. Also, their basic concept is that you don't download the book, but keep your copy in the cloud. Which means you can access it anywhere on any compatible device, and take up reading from where you left off, and not worry about losing your file. On the downside, you need an active Internet connection, which is a real negative compared to a Kindle or other ebook reader. (Google does have a way for you to download the book files, though.)

Google is allowing individual authors to put their books in the eBookstore, so this is yet another venue for authors to hock their ebooks (read more details here). It remains to be seen just how strong a sales venue this will be. Clearly the key selling point is that your book in the eBookstore will appear in relevant searches; the theory being that this will result in a lot more sales since people will be finding your book more easily (though this seems to make sense only for non-fiction books; I doubt fiction titles will be found through searches).

One more thing about this is the whole protracted court case over the Google Books concept. There's a settlement that the court has approved preliminarily, and this will allow Google to continue scanning books. There's still more than a few people unhappy with this idea (that books can get scanned in without their prior consent), but it looks like it will be the new reality. Marketers, start your search engines...

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