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Bad news for independent bookstores: Is Google becoming 'another Amazon'?

Google will end its Google eBooks reseller program which allowed independent bookstores to sell e-books through Google's platform.

By Husna Haq / April 6, 2012

Google's Google eBooks reseller program – which will end early next year – had been viewed as a way for independent bookstores like Montclair Book Center in Montclair, N.J., to even the playing field by selling e-books through Google's platform.

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It’s a sad day for indie bookstores and a sign of more consolidation in the publishing world.

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Reports emerged this week that Google contacted the American Booksellers Association and Powell’s Books to announce that it is ending its Google eBooks reseller program as of January 31, 2013. The program gave independent bookstores a leg up by allowing them to sell e-books through Google’s platform. With the cancellation of that program, lauded by indie supporters across the world, Google Play will be the only platform through which consumers can buy e-books through Google.

Google explained its decision in a post on its blog: “With the launch of Google eBooks in 2010, we introduced a multi-faceted approach to selling ebooks: online, on devices, through affiliates and through resellers. One part of that effort – the reseller program – has not gained the traction that we hoped it would, so we have made the difficult decision to discontinue it by the end of January next year.”

CEO of the ABA Oren Teicher sent a letter to members Thursday morning notifying them of the cancellation. “To the say the least, we are very disappointed in Google’s decision,” he wrote, “but we have every confidence that long before Google’s reseller program is discontinued, ABA will be able to offer IndieCommerce users a new alternative e-book product, or choice of products.”

Of course, the move further consolidates an increasingly consolidated marketplace for books and e-books. Google is trying to integrate its services much like Amazon and Apple have in recent years.

“Google Play seems to be Google’s bid at centralizing all of their services into one place to better compete with Apple’s iTunes marketplace. Providing eBooks from one location, instead of many, would help to decrease confusion over eBook sources,” writes WebProNews writer Zach Walton.

The move certainly makes sense for Google, but it leaves consumers with fewer choices and indie bookstores with less leverage. Of course, Google must tread carefully as it tries to compete with the likes of Amazon and Apple as it moves into this market lest it lose goodwill. What it needs to avoid are comments like these, posted on Publisher’s Weekly, in response to Thursday’s news:

“Google is becoming just as overbearing as Amazon. This is a real disappointment to those of us who like to support independent bookstores when buying e-books.”

“What I find sad about this is that I remember when Google started and they were positioning themselves as cool, hip, and independent. They have definitely lost that and become just another fat cat like Microsoft and Amazon.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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