Like many independent booksellers, Emily Powell, president of Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore., says that it was “a big surprise,” when Google contacted her earlier this week about ending their reseller agreement. “What’s most disturbing about this,” she says, “is it seemed like Google’s mission matched that of independents, all ideas in every format.” Powell’s, which has been selling digital books on its Web site for more than a decade, will continue to offer e-books without Google’s support, although the bookseller may have to shelve some long-range digital plans. For now the company’s focus is on becoming Google-free as soon as possible. Powell would like to do so within 90 days, because she worries, “it will only be more confusing to customers over time.”
While Powell’s is disentangling as fast as it can, it many take longer for the American Booksellers Association, which recently launched apps for reading Google e-books on IOS and Android devices. At this point it’s too early for the organization to have a firm timetable. Still, notes CEO Oren Teicher, “We have already started to look at a wide array of options; and, obviously, we’ll want to move as quickly as we can.”
For those IndieCommerce booksellers whose first reaction is to take down their links to Google eBooks from their Web site immediately, the ABA is asking them to reconsider. In a FAQ sheet posted on the Indie Commerce site, it notes that doing this will also remove the My eBooks page from the store site. So customers will only be able to access previous e-book purchases through Google.
Most booksellers share Teicher’s confidence that ABA will come up with a suitable solution within the nine-month transition time that Google is providing resellers, until the end of January 2013. “We’re obviously disappointed in Google’s decision. The ABA seemed very confident that they would find a suitable alternative for us. Our plan would be to follow their lead,” says Jeffrey Mayersohn, co-owner of Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.
Upsetting or no, some IndieCommerce booksellers are moving forward with plans to promote the fact that they sell e-books. “We’re incredibly disappointed,” says Casey Coonerty Protti, owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif. “I have complete faith that ABA will find a solution to enable us to sell e-books really well.” She plans not to change the store newsletter that is just about to go to the printer with a back page ad dedicated to Google -Books. “It would be a shame if customers thought they couldn’t get an e-book from us anymore,” says Protti.
Matthew Norcross, speaking solely in his capacity as co-owner of McLean & Eakin Bookstore in Petosky, Mich., says, “I firmly believe that the largest loss is [Google’s]. They had a chance to create a platform with unparalleled promotion possibilities and they squandered it.” On the other hand, he’s optimistic about the next e-book solution. He believes it will have a better chance of success because of the lessons learned in implementing Google eBooks.
Some booksellers, who were unhappy that the Google eBooks arrangement with ABA was only available to stores that signed on with IndieCommerce, look at this as an opportunity for the organization to provide broader e-book access. “It is my hope that the expenditure of ABA resources to implement a new e-book retail interface for independent bookstores will be one that would have made Jeremy Bentham proud, one that provides the greatest good for the greatest number of ABA members,” says Kenny Brechner, owner of Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine. “What I mean by that is a self-contained solution that all members could choose, or not choose, to adopt regardless of which e-commerce platform they use, or indeed whether they have any.”
One thing that is clear under the frustration and disappointment with Google’s decision is the fact that for booksellers to remain vital, they need to be able to offer e-books and print books and feel comfortable recommending both.