Late last week authors began reporting that they could not open a new account on Google Play Books’ Partner Center. Google Play Books is a cross-platform application which allows users to both download and upload books in PDF and ePub formats. Unlike Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iBooks, Google Play Books is an open publishing and sales platform which allows readers to easily move e-book across devices (phones, e-readers, desktops and tablets) and apps that support Adobe software and DRM.
Recently TIPM reviewed Google’s publishing platform and our conclusion was a pretty mixed bag to say the least.
I can see how some authors might want to upload their books directly to Google. Because Google scans the whole of a book when uploaded, it can really harness the power of its search engine to help readers discover those books. That said, an interface which appears relatively easy to use sometimes reveals a frustrating and time-consuming process.
I suspect a lot of readers who buy books using Google do so with a tablet or smartphone and it really comes down to whether an author wants to take the time to upload books directly to Google Play using their Partner Center facility and have the few additional benefits that come with it.
Google Play Books is a long way from the ease of Amazon KDP, and I actually expected better. Like a lot of Google developments (Buzz, Google Reader…), I sometimes wonder how committed the company is in fine-tuning applications like this in the long term. For me, the benefits just didn’t offset the frustrations.
News of Google’s decision to close the Partner Center for now appeared to catch many authors off-guard and over the weekend the following message was posted to Google’s Support Forums:
We’ve temporarily closed new publisher sign ups in the Play Books Partner Center, so we can improve our content management capabilities and our user experience. We’re working to reopen this to new publishers soon. Thanks for your patience.
The temporary closure only effects authors and publishers signing up to Google’s publishing platform for the first time. Authors with an existing account still have access and full functionality.
I certainly hope Google takes this opportunity to iron out the glitches in its publishing interface and Nate Hoffelder of Ink, Bits, & Pixels has speculated that Google may also be trying to address the issue of piracy. Users over the years have exploited Google Play’s weaknesses in identifying uploaded pirated books. I think he makes a strong argument that this could be the primary reason why Google has temporarily closed the platform to new accounts. Google has been accused by publishers of not taking book piracy seriously enough.