February 29, 2012

Google says it didn’t mean to kick lots of little indies out of its affiliates program … but not everyone believes them


In one of the most transparent fibs of the year, and amidst a wash of bad publicity, Google announced yesterday that it hadn’t meant to kick numerous indie booksellers out of its Google eBook affiliates program, it meant to — um, well, they didn’t say. But they definitely meant to not do what they did, and so everyone they kicked out was welcome back.

As we reported just yesterday, the move by the company whose motto is “Do No Evil” had had an evil impact on the rejected bookstores — for most indies, the deal with Google represented the only way they could sell ebooks. That was one reason the program was much bally-hooed (by Google), although it was seen by some cynics (ahem) as nothing more than an insincere effort at pr concocted during a time when the company had been sued by, well, the entire book industry.

Whatever Google meant it to be, it was a real opportunity for little indie booksellers to enter the world of digital commerce, and so the news that after a year of investment and effort on the part of those indies Google was pulling back was, as we noted in our earlier report, met with outrage.

But now, as a Publishers Weekly story reports, a Google spokesperson says ”we did not intend to deactivate independent booksellers from the Google eBooks affiliate program. We apologize for any inconvenience.” The spokesperson said those who were kicked out will be reinstated. The spokesperson apparently didn’t say why Google kicked them out in the first place, though.

At PW’s Shelf Talker blog, Josie Leavitt, one of the indie booksellers who was kicked out, and who wrote a livid column about it Monday (see our report yesterday), says she got an email from Google late that night. This email didn’t explain much either: “We mistakenly sent you this notification,” it read, “— your affiliate status will be unaffected. ” Leavitt says she doesn’t necessarily believe them, but she’s happy to be able to sell ebooks again.

For as long as Google feels like it, we have to suppose. Meanwhile, though, as Leavitt says, “Score one for the little guy.”


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.