Hokay, Google’s bookstore, launched Dec. 8th or so, is now giving sales stats. Results are promising, at least v. B&N or Kobo, less per title than Apple, but still a good start. Some portions, like the “sold through retailers” thing, aren’t looking as hot, but Google did manage to sell 4 copies via third parties, which is about 4 more than I expected.
Here’s why Google, and not B&N/Kobo/Sony/Apple/Agency/whatev,is the biggest ebook story of the year: They take away Amazon’s most powerful weapon against publishers. You can’t bury us in search anymore, Jeff.
I’d been putting titles into Google, by pointing their uploader to a directory w/ all the .pdfs I created for LSI/CSpace, and then taking Dusty for a long walk past the swimming pool while it processed. Through this arduous process, I’ve got 699 books live, another 150 pending, and can double that amount in short order, maybe after the uploader better supports .epub format (I’ve got a thousand such titles that I’d already prepared for Kobo… whenever the uploader supports .epub. Google does say that’ll happen soon, though it has been a while.)
The reason for going Google isn’t that I was so flush from ad revenue from Google Book Search; it’s that a book in Google’s search engine can, in many circumstances, be found, where it cannot be on Amazon.
There’s three reasons I’ve seen for why a book on google won’t show up in Amazon: if there’s gay/erotic content, you were buried in search for half a decade, now you aren’t, but, suddenly maybe you are again, and who knows what objections our National Censor the Sheriff of Polk County, FL will raise next? Or, if it was a printed book w/o a kindle edition (like the Munsey’s/Black Mask scans where I just give away the ebooks free here), ca n’existe pas! Worse still, if it was a book printed through Amazon’s CreateSpace Enterprise division, but lacking an LSI version, you get buried too (no, that doesn’t make any sense to me either). There are other cases I’ve heard of; these affect me directly.
Amazon’s gotten so in love with manipulating search results, they’ve bought companies like AbeBooks and especially Bookfinder, and some of the same games are being played with their new toys. For example, in addition to titles disappearing, Bookfinder makes you add the book directly into your amazon shopping cart when you click the link, not letting you see other versions, or even other book info.* And Kindle owners should note, despite metadata being contained in a book’s .prc or .azw source file, you can’t even find out who the publisher of a Kindle edition is, unless you’ve got the wireless turned on, in which case Amazon’ll show you the record in their store, along with a “customers who bought also purchased,” etc. It’s like Amazon’s business model was drawn from a lost chapter of The Captive Mind.
I’m not as much a victim of Amazon’s shenanigans as most publishers. In fact, people who’d been buying certain other titles removed from the Kindle store in the past few weeks thought the works in question were also published by me. Call it branding. But for Silk Pagoda titles like Tanizaki, say, or Anna Elisabet Weirauch’s pioneering lesbian Scorpion trilogy, where for whatever reason I didn’t have an LSI version, when the schools started teaching it, they’d order direct from me, because they saw the work in Google book search. And then I’d have CreateSpace Enterprise fulfill the order, which they wouldn’t screw up at least one time in three.
With its actual-sales-generating bookstore, Google is now in the position where they don’t have to rely on links to Amazon (or Abebooks, or Bookfinder, or even Alibris/B&N) for revenue anymore. As a retailer, Google makes money just being a better, more reliable and consistent source for books than Amazon has become, one that can be stocked with your inventory in a snap via the simple .pdf or .epub files that every publisher has (or should have).
The new global catalog for books, if you will.
This is going to get interesting.
*The new Bookfinder “feature” is the most annoying of them all. Bookfinder still doesn’t know exactly what Amazon has available from third-party sellers, and to be honest, after I’ve done the rights clearance for a pulp, the thing I look for is whether or not there’s a hardcover edition, say one sold ex-library. Even if the HC is $50 vs. $5 for an old paperback, I’d still take the HC, because nothing in life is as difficult to scan as a crumbling ’50s paperback, with tiny fonts and no separation between lines… well, save for a crumbling ’40s paperback… and, of course, a WWII-era paperback done when there was rationing of paper ‘n ink… those really suck.