Thursday, December 2, 2010

5 reasons why independent bookstores shouldn't count too much on Google Editions

Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Google "is in the final stages of launching its long-awaited e-book retailing venture, Google Editions, a move that could shake up the way digital books are sold" (more details in the video at the bottom).

According to the New York Times, "Google Editions will allow users to buy e-books from Google or from the Web sites of independent bookstores, which have yet to find a way to compete with Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple on the electronic front."

The American Booksellers Association (ABA) reported that more than 200 independent booksellers could sign up. It looks like booksellers are happy about this new option that for many of them wasn't available until now. It's a great addition to independent bookstores, but we believe independent bookstores shouldn't cont too much on Google Editions. Here's why:

1. Competition with Google and other sellers - According to the WSJ, "users will be able to buy books directly from Google or from multiple online retailers—including independent bookstores". It makes sense that most ebook buyers will just google the title they want to purchase and then go to the first result they receive on their search or the cheapest one. None of these will probably be independent bookstores. This sort of competition with Google itself and other sellers with more internet and SEO expertise means that most traffic to the independent stores' websites will be from their own loyal customers.

2. Google has no real incentive to support sales in Independent stores - Google is making more money of each sale made directly from Google, as they need to share the revenue with the bookstores if the purchase is made through their website. Therefore, Google doesn't have a real incentive to support sales in the stores and won't help them to win more sales as it will be eventually on Google's account.

3. It won't help their brick and mortar sales - Google Editions may provide them with some more income, but still far from compensating for the continuing decline in sales at the stores. It doesn't provide customers with any incentive to go to the stores and therefore doesn't help the owners in figuring out how to transform the stores from a liability back into an asset.

4. Amazon will fight back - The main threat here is to established retailers like Amazon that will surely fight back to keep its customers at And when the fight is between Google, with no experience whatsoever in online retailing and the independent bookstores on its side and Amazon, maybe the most successful online retailer, I'm not sure if I'd put my money on Google.

5. It's too small to stop the bleeding - Cathy Langer, the lead book buyer for the Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver, told Julie Bosman of the New York Times she had been waiting for the introduction of Google Editions with "great anticipation." “I always say that indies need to be players in all parts of the game, so this is going to be great to bring us into the e-book game in a reasonable, affordable way,” she said. “We would like to make a little money off of it. But we have got to stop the bleeding.” She's right - the Google Editions is no more than a small bandage given the relatively small market share (yet) of ebooks and the small chance this platform will bring new customers to the store. For the independent bookstores, the search after the right bandage is still far from an end.

Google's long-awaited Google Editions online bookstore appears closer to coming online. Rex Crum talks with Amir Efrati of the Wall Street Journal about what Google's entry means for the online book market.

For more information on Google Editions see the WSJ video with Rex Crum talks with Amir Efrati of the Wall Street Journal about what Google's entry means for the online book market:

More related articles:

Is there a future for Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores? Is it a green one?, Eco-Libris Blog

Can monetary incentives + local benefits generate a brighter future for independent bookstores?, Eco-Libris Blog

You can find more resources on the future of bookstores on our website at

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting sustainable reading!