Google is not a legitimate bookstore says Borders one of the largest bookstore retailers in Australia. The company, who earlier this year launched their own Kobo e-reader, have come out swinging against the giant search company who today announced the release of 3 million books in their new eBook store.Currently, the publications which include some of the top ten New York Times bestsellers in both fiction and non-fiction, are set to be made available in Australia by mid-2011 as Google negotiates global rights with selected publishers.
The move by Google to online appears to be another blow for retailers in the book category.
James Webber, Managing Director of Borders, said that at this stage they do not see themselves as being threatened and that what Google is offering is not a legitimate bookstore.
“They could become a legitimate bookstore. They aren’t today,” said Webber.
“They tried to sell telephones too. They failed,” added Webber.
During the past 12 months, Borders have made an aggressive pitch to take business away from online retailers with their own offering after admitting that they’re under pressure from Amazon. A visit to a Borders website claims that they will match Amazon prices on several books.
David Fenlon, Group Managing Director of Redgroup (the company that owns Borders) admitted that Amazon was taking “a huge chunk” of the Australian bookselling industry back in May when Borders announced their competing Kobo e-reader. (see full story here)
The move to launch Google eBooks (formerly known as Google Editions) follows the widespread success of e-readers like the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle. While other eBook services offer limited usage of products from their bookstores, Google stakes their claim as, “Buy Anywhere, Read Anywhere,” with a web browser being the only necessity for reading purchased eBooks across platforms.
Currently trading in the US and reportedly working with every book publisher, Google is offering millions of free eBooks (including classics like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) along with its repository of books from the public domain as well as hundreds of thousands of books for a fee.
Borders similarly offer millions of free eBooks, “plus the in-store experience,” says Borders’s Webber.
While he says that over a million dollars worth of eBooks have been sold since the release of the Kobo e-reader, Webber also says that physical book sales still massively trump the online contingent.
“What people actually want is local and specialised material from their bookstore,” he adds. “I don’t see Google being the source of books for a book expert. If you’re looking for specialised content or a certain edition then you’d go for us.”
Google’s venture could impact on domestic bookstores in Australia as early as the first quarter of next year if it capitalises on a lower cost threshold when Google eBooks goes international.
Independent researcher, Gartner puts Google up as a major threat to other eBook providers like Amazon, so the potential to outprice Australian retailers is very real.
Google eBooks runs on open-source software and eBooks are stored in the cloud rather than in any stored state on a viewer’s reading device, as opposed to competitors like Amazon’s Kindle which downloads eBooks to the device.