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Will Google Editions Threaten Amazon Kindle's Dominance?

So, we’re really excited about the launch of Google Editions, which is set for some time during the first half of this year (extremely vague, I know). What has a lot of authors excited is the fact that they will be offering a 63% royalty to authors and publishers, thereby keeping 37% if books are sold via the Google Books database, but you'll only see 45% for sales from third-party retailers, because they have to offer the standard 55% wholesale discount to them automatically. That is how the eBook market works. But at least you as the publisher will no longer have to worry about print costs, so whatever you price the book at, 45% of the retail price is yours, if the book is sold by vendors other than Google Books (a whopping 63% is yours if it’s sold by them).

A client of ours recently forwarded an email they received from Amazon, which described an important amendment to the Terms and Conditions with regard to the “List Price” of Kindle books. Some of the language is as follows:

“You will provide a list price for each Digital Book you submit to us in accordance with the then current Program procedures for list price submission (“List Price”).  You will adjust the List Price as required to ensure that, at all times that the Digital Book is available for sale through the Program, the List Price does not exceed the lowest of: (a) the lowest suggested retail price or equivalent price for any digital or physical edition of the Digital Book;  (b) the lowest price at which you list or offer any digital or physical edition of the Digital Book on any website or other sales channel; and (c) any maximum List Price we provide from time to time in the Program Policies.”

While some of the language may sound like Amazon is concerned about authors listing varied retail prices for eBooks sold on competing vendor sites, the company does have a point. It would be unfair practice to list your book for less on competing vendor sites, like Google's, while keeping a higher list price at Amazon. Doesn’t bode well for the competition. You see, once you push your print edition through the publishing process, even though it can sell at different prices from different vendors, you have to set one retail price via your Lightning Source or BookSurge printer account (or whomever you choose to use), and vendors are free to offer competing discounts. But since the eBook market is so scattered, and you don't use, say, one printer to distribute your book to various vendors, you get to choose your prices as you submit to various eBook distributors.

Given the above language from Amazon, I'm sure they’ll allow you to change your eBook prices whenever you choose, so long as the price is the same across the board on other retailer sites. What I do think will happen, however, is that Amazon will either have to lower it's kickback percentage, currently a whopping 65% to them, or lose customers to Google, if Google in fact takes off, which is uncertain since Amazon is dominating the eBook market right now. Actually, the market was kind of dead before they launched Kindle, and you notice we don't really hear a peep out of the B&N folks, meaning the Nook is probably dead in the water. It may take time for it to catch on with their base of customers, but I don't think Nook will take away a significant market share. Books don't even sell at a great rate on B&N's official website, in comparison to Amazon, so the Nook can't drive that much sales if there’s not enough traffic to their site. What I would do if I ran B&N, is use my stores to gain an edge over Amazon, by placing Kiosks in every store and allow patrons to download books right there to their Nook, rather than only have them go online to do so. More customers visit their stores than their website nationwide, even in this horrendous economic climate, and I think that having physical stores could give them an edge if they tried innovative measures that Amazon could not, since they are solely web-based. 

We'll see what Google does, however. They should NOT be underestimated. I think they are the only ones who stand a chance in taking away significant market share from Amazon, which is why news of their inevitable eBook launch prompted an email blast warning about pricing. That didn't happen when B&N launched Nook, which sort of proves that they're no threat.

Reader Comments (1)

I agree the eBook war will be won by vendors that are solely electronic such as Google and Amazon. Just think about it, how many of us just love to go into a BN store to look through the books and sip on Starbucks' coffee? I would say the majority of us book readers! I've never been to an Amazon store, because it doesn't exist! The only way that I have ever found them is on the web and to the web I shall go. The same goes for Google. Google has more than made a name for itself and they have their hands even on the YouTube accounts to login. So for most of us that have gmail accounts, calendars, etc. I would say they already have a platform and this thing is going to boom!!! Why? Because like most internet users there is the convenience factor that makes it that much easier for all google users to get to, and not to mention they have all of the smart phone apps to compete. Editions will just be another feather in the hat. Google you never cease to amaze me and I'm eatin' it up. Everyone else just hop on for the ride.

January 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAhmad Williams

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