Google Winding Down E-Book Reselling Program To Focus On Play

The American Booksellers Association sent a letter to its members today announcing that Google was putting an end to its reseller program, which allowed independent bookstores to operate an e-book storefront using Google as the wholesaler. The news was confirmed shortly afterwards by a post on the Inside Google Books blog, saying “it’s clear that the reseller program has not met the needs of many readers or booksellers.”

The news will be unwelcome to the bookstores that were relying on Google, but it’s not all gloom and doom. For one thing, the reseller program will continue to operate for about nine months, giving booksellers plenty of time to make the changes necessary. And, as the ABA puts it, in 2010 the program “was the only viable means for us to enter the e-book market, but, like so much else in our industry, things have changed rapidly, and we have options that simply did not exist 18 months ago.”

Like so many other of Google’s well-formed but not particularly popular services, Books is getting the consolidation treatment. They’ll still offer e-books, of course, but their role as a middle man is coming to an end. They prefer to be the alpha and the omega, and will focus on their own storefront, the redesigned all-purpose Play store.

This means an opportunity for another e-book wholesaler to step in and pick up the contracts Google is leaving behind. The independent bookstores don’t want anything to do with B&N or Amazon, but at the moment power is so concentrated in the biggest companies that there isn’t much room in the margins.

PaidContent has a copy of the letter the ABA sent to members. It’s apologetic but quietly critical of Google for what amounts to pulling the rug out from under an industry that was grateful for its support.