Following launches in the U.S. and U.K., Google’s eBookstore launched in Canada Tuesday at noon. So far, Google has agreements with the Canadian arms of multinational publishers -- Random House of Canada, HarperCollins Canada, Penguin Group Canada, Simon & Schuster Canada as well as Canadian houses such as D&M Publishers, House of Anansi Press, McClelland & Stewart and Dundurn Press.
Scott Dougall, director of product management for Google Books, said the time lag since the U.S. launch last December is not particular to Canada. “Google is used to rolling out globally platforms that are free and available to everyone, but once you start rolling out a platform where you are selling paid goods, there’s a lot more legal requirements to conform to,” he said. “There’s territorial rights, there’s copyright rules, there’s tax rules and tax rules meant that there are legal rules about what we display on the receipts and how we communicate with our users.”
Dougall added that Google also takes time to develop sites that are tailored to each new country’s market, ensuring “we had a merchandising team building and curating the store that is culturally sensitive and basically not just assuming that Canadians just read American books. … For example, on the home page we have the Globe and Mail bestseller list, which is a little more relevant to Canada than the New York Times bestsellers. We also have things like the Scotiabank Giller Prize being promoted, and there’s a lot more Canadian artists and Canadian books that are being merchandised throughout the site.”
Google still has some work ahead in negotiating agreements with some smaller Canadian publishers. One of the finalists for Canada’s big fiction prize, the Giller, is noticeably absent from Google’s selection. Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues, which was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is not in the list, presumably because Google doesn’t yet have an agreement with her publisher, Thomas Allen Publishers. Dougal couldn’t speak to that book specifically but says Google wants to have a complete selection of Canadian books. “We’re out to get every book in the world accessible, so if you see that we’ve missed a book so far and it’s on a list somewhere, someone’s going to be going after it.”
Google has also partnered with some independent bookstores – McNally Robinson and the Queen’s University-based CampusEbookstore -- to allow them to sell books online. “Our desire is to have a good presence with local book retailers,” says Dougal, adding that it is dependent on the technical infrastructure of the bookstores.
The bookstore is launching with media partnerships with CBC’s Canada Reads program, the Globe and Mail and Quill & Quire magazine.
Google Books will also be available in the Android Marketplace.