Just got off the phone with Mark Tanner, who is Google’s ebooks rep in Australia. He’s ensconced down in Sydney in the Googleplex (Aust version) in Pyrmont.
Interesting guy. He’s the man charged with getting the Google Ebookstore successfully launched here and publishers and retail partners signed up. He emailed me the other day and was nice enough to do a quick interview.
Even though I’ve had a play with the GE site (see how here), chances are that the question foremost on my mind was the same as the one on yours: “When?”
Unfortunately Mark has to follow the company line. “We’ve been very excited by the US launch of the Google Ebookstore – it went extremely well,” he said. “Within 24 hours we were the number one app in the Apple App Store. Not just in books though – overall. We are really happy with the response and there haven’t been any real glitches at our end. What Google does well is launch a Version 1.0 product and then iterate, and I think the public know that.”
Google has had it’s share of major glitches when launching products, however – remember the Google Buzz privacy headache? But clearly things have been as good as gold with the US Ebookstore launch, which you would probably expect, given that Google Books’ ebooks product has been mooted (and clearly worked on) for, well, years.
So when does Australia get it? Again, the official line from overall product manager Scott Dougall, here in the WSJ, is that the GE will launch internationally in the first quarter of 2011.
But Tanner is optimistic that we’ll be near the start of the international queue. “I’m hoping we’ll be in the top group – that means early next year,” he said. So it sounds like the GE will roll out across the world in waves (ulp – don’t mention that word in Australia) and that if retailer and publisher interest remains very strong, we could be in the first group to get the nod.
Tanner says that retail interest on the ground has certainly been strong. “We’re in discussions with every major book retailer in Australia,” he says, “and in active discussions with a variety of other retail players. After all – we think it’s a pretty sweet offer for booksellers.”
Do I smell the waft of indies on the wind? In the US, GE launched already plugged in to 120 indie bookstores – all of whom had the advantage of being part of the American Bookseller Association‘s powerful and integrated indie retail system. Two weeks on, that figure has already risen to about 150. They must be doing something right.
Will it be the same story in Australia’s more fractured indie landscape? Or will the big boys dominate again? Who can say – but I’m itching to find out. Soon.