July 5 – July 11, 2010 Edition Google Teams with Indy Booksellers to Sell E-Books

SAN FRANCISCO/AUTHORLINK NEWS/July 6, 2010-Google has partnered with the American Booksellers Association to make the search company’s new Google Editions the primary source of e-books on the Web sites of hundreds of independent booksellers around the country. Some 1400 independent booksellers who belong to the ABA potentially can participate.

Though Google will act as a retailer and sell books from its own site, it will also behave like a wholesaler and allow ABA independent bookstores and other partners to sell its e-books on their own sites.

Later this summer, Google plans to introduce its long-awaited push into electronic books, called Google Editions. People who buy Google e-books will not be locked into any particular reading devices or book formats, the company said. Books bought from Apple’s iBookstore, by contrast, can be read only on Apple devices.

“I don’t think anyone who has bought an e-reader in the last several years has really intended to only buy their digital books from one provider for life,” Tom Turvey, Google’s director of strategic partnerships, who heads the Google Editions project told The New York Times in an article last week.

Mr. Turvey said that customers would be able to get access their books, or buy new ones, from anywhere in the world by entering their Google credentials. And he said Google would introduce the service with a broad selection of hundreds of thousands of books, including trade fiction, nonfiction and professional, scholarly and academic titles, including textbooks.

According to The Times, the partnership with the ABA could help beloved bookstores like Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore.; Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, Calif.; and St. Mark’s Bookshop in New York. To court the growing audience of people who prefer reading on screens rather than paper, these small stores have until now been forced to compete against the likes of Amazon, Apple and Sony.

The Google deal could give them a foothold in this fast-growing market and help them keep devoted customers from migrating elsewhere.

As a wholesaler, Google will play a role similar to that of offline distributors like Ingram Book and Baker & Taylor, which buy books from publishers and resell them to bookstores. Those companies generally keep a single-digit percentage of each sale, and Mr. Turvey said Google would operate along similar lines.

Independent bookstores seem to believe that Google is more interested in working through them than being a direct retailer. In fact, they are banking on it.

“Google would allow us to play completely outside the device-centric game,” Darin Sennett, the director of Web development at Powell’s, told The Times.

Mr. Sennett acknowledged that Google would also be a competitor, since it would also sell books from its Web site. But he seemed to believe that Google would favor its smaller partners.

“I don’t see Google directly working to undermine or outsell their retail partners,” he said. “I doubt they are going to be editorially recommending books and making choices about what people should read, which is what bookstores do.”

He added, “I wonder how naïve that is at this point. We’ll have to see.”