Plagued by a lack of promotional support from Google, almost universal consumer ignorance of the program and minimal interest from indie retailers, Google has ended its Google eBooks retailer partner program. The company has now folded its e-book retailing program into Google Play, a newly launched cloud-based entertainment platform that will also offer Google’s online music, Android app store and streaming movie services all under one branded service. Google Play launched last month and Google users will notice that the Google eBookstore app on their devices has been replaced with a Google Play icon.
Much the same will happen with the Android Market, Google’s version of Apple’s App store, as well as Google Music, as the company groups all of its entertainment content under the Google Play brand, now individually called Google Play Books, Google Play Music, Google Play Apps and movies. Thanks to the rise in popularity of cloud-based computing—which allows content to be stored online and accessed easily on any web-enabled device--beginning in March, Google Play will allow consumers to buy content through its cloud-based apps and download and access the content quickly and easily on any web-enabled device they own as well as access it through their web accounts and offline.
While PW attempted to contact Google for comment on both the discontinuation of the reseller program and the development of Google Play, a Google spokesperson would only say that the decision to discontinue the retailer partnership “was difficult to make,” and the company declined to respond further. While Copia, a book-focused social network and e-commerce platform, is ramping up a service that offers indie retailers (domestic and international) a turnkey online service that will allow them to sell both e-books and physical books, it remains to be seen what other firms will step in to offer indie retailers a similar easy-access program for e-book retail.
“Google continues to struggle with retail,” said Michael Wolf, v-p of research at GigaOM, a technology news and analysis blog, “They get search and they get advertising, but if they had any credibility in retailing they’ve lost it now.” Wolf said he was skeptical of the move to lump all of its content services under the broad Google Play brand, “gaming, books, movies, music, all under one banner. It’s a bad name that makes me think of gaming but not necessarily the other content,” he said in a phone interview about the new Google initiative.
Wolf said that while the move to Google Play is an attempt to step up competition with Apple, he said, “Apple is wise to retain content storefronts like the iBookstore, alongside their dominant iTunes brand. Apple and Amazon are just savvier about retail. Putting all this stuff under one brand shows a lack of understanding. The specifics of the content gets lost and it become confusing to consumers.”
The growth of cloud-based content access platforms like Google Play means a new era of easy mobile access for consumers to their content. Apps, music, books and movies can all be stored online in the cloud, there’s no need for synching with cables and all content can be set to download and update automatically. And consumers can still access their content while offline as well. While the move to cloud based access to content is happening across all the content aggregators, the move is clearly attempt by Google to step up its competition with Apple and its suite of devices.
However, Google’s withdrawal from its Google eBooks retailer partner program is bound to leave some bad feelings about how the giant company does business. Launched in 2010, Google eBooks seemed flawed from the start. The service sought to bring independent retailers into the digital retailing, offering a turn-key service that let consumers register with indie stores and buy Google eBooks through their favorite local physical indie stores, which received a fee on each title. However, local stores were required to provide their own marketing and promotional support and it should be no surprise that many stores simply did not have the resources to do so.
Indeed while retailers signing on for the program often offered Google eBooks as service for e-book-oriented consumers that wanted it, most retailers contacted by PW said the service didn’t produce enough revenue for them devote scarce manpower or funds in support of the service. After awhile the program seemed to be more an illustration of how not to launch an e-book retailer partnership program.