February 23, 2011

Indie books & independent nations… Google for good.


Keeping the lights on: Greenlight on selling virtual books

When Google launched its long awaited Ebookstore in December, part of the hype and hope was that it would allow indie bookstores to take advantage of the digital revolution. At the L Magazine, Mark Asch interviews Jessica Stockton of Greenlight Books about how it’s going so far:

At this point, barely two months after the launch of the Google ebooks project (and only three months after our store’s ecommerce website went up), it’s really just a trickle. But…as people get comfortable with how the buying process and the platform works, we’ll definitely see an increase.

Asch then asks why Google has gone out of its way to offer eBook sales opportunities to indie bookstores when they could have tried to monopolized the market a la Amazon or Apple.

The scale that Google operates on is so far removed from my experience that I can barely begin to imagine their business strategies! But my thought is that perhaps they’ve adopted a philosophy of diversification, rather than a philosophy of consolidation (as, for example, Amazon has with the DRM-ed up, single-channel Kindle)…. If this is indeed their thinking, it’s a variation on the kind of collaborative “enlightened self-interest” we practice in working with other independent bookstores and other local businesses—and I think it makes for a healthy, sustainable long-term economy for books.

Along with Google’s recent undercutting of Apple’s deathly 30% subscription fees, the company does seem to be positioning itself as the tech giant that supports the little guy. Throw in Wael Ghonim, the heroic pro-democracy activist and  Google executive in Egypt…. and you’ve got an impressive “don’t-be-evil” streak going.