While Amazon’s boycott launched by Barnes & Nobles and has gathered following from Indies and other distributors, one major actor has been conspicuously absent from the battle scene: Google eBookstore.
To be honest, Google is fighting on another publishing war front, the copyright infringement where Google Books is under fire by the Author’s guild in an already long drawn battle that began in 2005. This is when the Author’s guild launched a class action suit against Google Book Search project. This is an ongoing battle, still being fought in front of the courts and unlikely to be over any time soon.
So exclusivity is not really Google’s main worry, since it seems to be bent on making all books available for free for everyone, as un-exclusive as one can possibly imagine … Or so it might seem, yet, there is money in books, so could it be that Google is really sitting this one out?
While Amazon and Barnes & Nobles are stealing the press headlines with their fight over exclusivity, Google ebookstore is redesigning its affiliate programs. By redesigning, understand limiting access to its affiliate program to a select few chosen according to criterion best known to Google itself.
As usual, Google value the secrecy behind its selection process. SEO specialists are constantly trying to guess what criterion Google algorithm are using to push websites up or down its search engine, leading to millions of pages of content talking about Google. How many online pages will be devoted to guessing what will enable a select few to be part of Google eBookstore affiliate program is, as everything with Google, anyone’s guess.
A letter sent to those affiliates members slated for disconnection simply stated that the links through their bookstores’ websites would be deactivated on March 15th. Further affiliates will be by invitation only by Google and will have to maintain a minimum sales standard.
A spokeperson for Google, interviewed by Publisher’s Weekly’s Judith Rosen stated that: “We are constantly evaluating our Google eBook affiliate program, searching for the best ways to create value for our partners and users. With our most recent evaluation, we’ve decided to narrow the scope of the program to a smaller number of partners to create a better experience for our customers.”
This lead Goodereader’s blog to write that: “There was no elaboration on how cutting out smaller independent bookstores will enhance their customers’ experience, other than the logical assumption that now consumers will have to go to larger booksellers’ websites to purchase ebooks if they still wish to boycott other online retailers or continue to consciously lend their support to indie bookstores. These customers that Google indicated are not necessarily the reading consumers, but rather the larger bookstores that have the power to draw in more consumer dollars when the ability to sell ebooks is taken away from the lesser performing Mom-and-Pop bookstores.”
So is Google eBookstore apparent absence from the overt battle for exclusivity real, or are they leading a more silent and deadly fight?