May 25, 2011

Why has Google walked away from the Google eBookstore?


Try finding them, indeed

Book Expo America, going on now in New York City, is notable for its events featuring mega-bestselling writers and somebody-wrote-it-for-me celebrities whose further promotion goes beyond unnecessary into the realm of actual progress down the road to doom, and panel discussions featuring majordomos from Amazon, Google, and Apple alongside collaborateurs from the Big Six publishers, making pronouncements about the future of the business. The panels are never forums about those pronouncements, because if they were they wouldn’t include the pronouncers — rather, those panels are the pronouncements.

Case in point: “A BEA panel convened by Google joined the many forums looking at ‘the future of ebooks,’ moderated by Google Books executive Tom Turvey,” as reported by Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch. It’s an oddly truncated report — panelists are identified by last names only, articles are dropped. But what’s clear is that no one — not the panelists nor the people, including journalists like Cader — asked the moderator why his company has walked away from what it continues to declare is going to be a significant part of “the future of ebooks” — that is, the Google eBookstore.

As recently as Monday the company bragged about the eBookstore’s success, in this press release crowing that it’s now got 250 indie booksellers participating in the program (whereby they can sell ebooks through the Google eBookstore). But talk to a publisher that’s been trying to get its books into the program and you’ll learn one of the worst kept secrets in the book industry: It’s been almost impossible since the beginning of the year to enroll, let alone load your books into the Google eBookstore, a program that was started just last December.

Why? Well, watch for the denial, but as reliable, primary sources have told us at Melville House, and have told every other publisher we know, including some imprints at the big houses, it’s because Google has pulled all its programmers off the eBookstore.

Why would it do that? Because, as near as anyone can figure, Google realized selling ebooks was going to be about .0001% of their annual gazillion dollar profit.

Which made me think of what a Google executive said to me when I complained to him about the way the company was running its eBookstore: “We operate differently because we are different.”

Right. They’re in it for the money alone.

Welcome to the future.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives