Sunday, December 27, 2015

Adventures in Self-Publishing: Google

I want Google Books to do well.  I want there to be a second absurdly big company selling ebooks. iTunes hates its customers as much as it hates proper capitalization, and Barnes & Noble just ain't hacking it either.  I don't see any other major player competing with the 'Zon.  Which is a shame, because Google is so bad at it.

I've never tried to publish on Google, and I understand they're not taking folks off the street, so my experience is second hand, mainly through confused authors trying to figure their system out.

The main complaint is pricing.  Google has the right in their contracts to slash the list price to nothing, and Amazon has the right in it's contract to price match it.  So Google drops the price of your book to 12 cents.  They still pay the full royalty (bleeding buckets of money in the process), but with few sales because nobody buys from Google.  Amazon price matches, giving you 9 cents a copy.

During the last Black Friday, Google was slashing everything.  Authors were jacking up the price hoping that the final result would be their actual desired list price.  The ended up pricing a $2.99 book at $69 to get the list price stable.  Then they found out they still got paid the full royalty on the $69.  Lots of prices got jacked up that weekend.

Amazon sucks at all thing mobile.  Their attempt at a phone, their shopping app, their app store, the Kindle app - all horrible.  Unfortunately, Google sucks at all things book.

Maybe it's the one book I've bought from them.  I can read it on the Google Play website on a PC, but only if I'm logged on to that particular Google account.  If I want to use another Google sign-on, I'll get kicked out, and have to do a workaround like opening a different kind of browser.  The text doesn't resize well on Firefox and bookmarks disappear or can't be deleted.  I usually use Chrome anyway, but a text reader should be able to work anywhere in 2015.

I clicked to download the PDF, but you don't get a real PDF.  You get an ascm file, which requires a different form of Adobe and lots of signing on and an internet connection every time you want to look at the book you paid for.  I finally got a version that reads offline without a password, but every time I open it Adobe tries to spend ten minutes re-downloading it.  And when I read it, there's a two second lag every time I try to scroll.

Amazon is smart enough to know that this level of DRM is counter-productive.  Step Two trouble shooting any DRM issue is always "look for pirated copy".  It should never be easier to steal than it is to buy.

Hopefully the largest data collecting organization in human history can manage to figure out how to sell letters on a screen.  Right after the world's largest bookseller figures out how to keep bookmarks from disappearing.

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