I’ve been worried about Indie Bookstores and eBooks for a while. I work with independent bookstores across the Midwest, and many of them started feeling the sting of Amazon’s growing market share even before the meteoric rise of eBook sales. But as the Kindles rolled out and eBook sales started to pick up, Indies were left in a lurch.
Then came Google, a sometimes-not-evil tech giant, partnering with the American Booksellers Association to allow Indies to sign up and get access to the Google eBooks store — for a fee of $200-300 a month, per store if the business has multiple stores. This meant that several notable independent chains, including Joseph-Beth Booksellers, decided not to opt-in to the program, leaving them without an eBook selling solution.
When Google announced it was ending the bookstore affiliate program, I got worried. The idea of Indies being shut out of the eBook sales market was troubling. There’s no reason that people who are loyal to independent bookstores but like reading eBooks shouldn’t be able to make sure their friendly local gets a cut of eBook revenue if they want.
It seems like the folks at Zola have a well-developed plan for building the company up as a comparable alternative to Amazon or BN.com’s online stores, and the partnership with authors could be a cool feature. I hope that they’ll be able to deliver, that Indies will be able to opt-in with much less overhead costs, and that they grow into a strong alternative to the established online eBooksellers. Amazon has a very sophisticated system that they’ve streamlined over years, and a lot of their success comes from aggressive and smart business practices. But I’m wary of any one company getting too much control of an industry, and Zola might help spread the market around a bit more.