Warning: Nothing in the article by Jason Del Ray at re/code says that Google Shopping Express will deliver books. But why wouldn’t it? And if it does, will that open up a layer of serious competition to Amazon, at least in the arena of print book sales? Would it be a boon to brick and mortar bookstore chains that could supply books to Google Shopping Express? To book wholesalers who stock (and now print) books? To indie authors and publishers who would supply Google directly on wholesale terms?
To sum up my understanding of what Google is planning: Google Shopping Express is partnering with the big retail chains to deliver goods to our doorsteps. Unlike Amazon, which either stocks products in warehouses or drop ships direct from the vendor, Google will ally with retailers so they get a cut of the sales (as opposed to partnering with the manufacturers.) In other words, if you order a box of Tide, Google will get it from Target or Walmart instead of from Proctor and Gamble.
That fact has retailers in a very happy mood, although they’re suspicious about Google’s long term motives. Our data-driven world revolves around collecting information on what you and me buy, our shopping habits, even trying to figure out what we’ll buy next, and why. Maybe Google will gather up all that priceless data then use it to bypass the retailers — cut out the middlemen. Could happen.
But back to books. This is about the physical delivery of products to a customer’s home. For indie authors, selling their books in print editions is about as easy as scaling the Wall in Game of Thrones. Since virtually all indie authors (and small presses) are using digital printing these days, aka “Print on Demand” and, in most cases, authors can’t/won’t take the risk of making those books returnable if the bookseller can’t sell them, booksellers aren’t interested in stocking their books.
Also, the fact of shrinking shelf space as bookstores struggle for survival and book sections disappear in other venues means that few (5 percent) published books ever reach the public, returnable or not.
Amazon currently commands the lion’s share of online print sales for indie authors and small presses. Due to pressure from Amazon for authors/publishers to use its own digital printing service, Amazon takes a huge cut of the retail price for production, as well as a sales commission. What’s left for author/publishers is a sliver of profit–unless they over-price the book, in which case, few readers will buy it.
But what if Google Shopping Express makes it at least a little easier and more profitable for indies and small presses to sell print books to readers — say, for example, through a reasonable POD service? There are many factors and many questions and probably many “Nopes” I haven’t thought of, yet, but I would love to think it could happen.