You’d be forgiven if you missed the launch of Google’s storefront in the UK – the somewhat optimistically-named ‘Google Play’, which ties together their bookstore (eh?) their music store (coming soon – bet you can’t wait), their video store (you mean… Youtube?), and their apps (Android). Available directly through your Android device your browser (natch), the Google Play is probably the closest thing Apple has ever come to direct competition. Although, Google is about as much competition for Apple at this point as MC Hammer is to Google.
As far as I can tell the UK launch hasn’t officially happened yet or else no doubt we’d all know about it. Google aren’t known for being lazy promoters. But the site is live and I suggest you go and have a look.
Now, they begin the mammoth task of trying to recruit buyers (and suppliers?) to their store. Primarily, this target market will be Android users. But, as everyone who develops Apps for Android knows, these users are notoriously hard to milk cash out of.
Richard Muscat wrote an excellent post on The Price of Free last year that summed up my thoughts about this exactly: ‘Although you may get tens of thousands of users, it is probable that those users are unlikely to ever consider paying you because by definition you have attracted people who are looking for free stuff.’
Google launched the biggest free eBook library of anyone back in 2002, and didn’t make many friends in the process. Now they’re coming back to publishers and asking them for access to ePubs and PDFs. Even more difficult, they’re asking readers to start paying for a type of media they had otherwise gotten for nothing.
It could just be me, but I don’t know that Android users buy those devices because they’re interested in consuming paid media. Aside from that, Google aren’t exactly dominating in their attempts to drive traffic to their social media site, which will be linked with Google Play to incentivise purchase.
So, will this Google Play ever amount to anything to rival the likes of Amazon and Apple? Google knows the value of organic search on sales and they’re a massive tech giant for a reason, so I wouldn’t discount the possibility. I am pleased Google aren’t pissing where they sleep (so to speak) by throwing away their trusted search to force their products down our throat at this stage, but they do seem to have a plan to use their bigger brands like Youtube to leverage their storefront in the future through cross-linking etc.
This is Google starting to lay their cards on the table for eBook distribution. They’ll no doubt be trying to make some very nice deals with publishers soon to promote authors and books, using statistics of Android users that don’t accurately reflect the public’s engagement with their products. Beware the sales pitch citing Android devices.
If I owned a publishing house I’d play along. But I’d also be very careful of the terms of any agreements with Google. When you’re dealing with a retailer whose primary revenue stream is not your product and who don’t seem to have an issue with massive copyright violation, you’ve got to ask if what they want from you is in your best interests.