Monday, July 22, 2013

BPN 1645 : Google starts e-book sales in the Netherlands (1)

Google sells e-books in the Netherlands
Google was already present in Europe, mainly in the larger states like UK, France Germany and Italy. Now Google has launched Books on Google Play in nine more European countries: The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Greece, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Romania.

The Dutch now have another channel to buy e-books from. So far they had the choice of local distributors like e-Books,, the logistics book centre CB and the channels from abroad such as Amazon and iTunes.

Foreign channels for downloading e-books are not always the favourites of the Dutch. It is a hassle with credit cards, while orders through the Dutch channels can be handled through iDEAL, a direct banking channel. Despite cooperation with CB, Google Play Store is still handling orders through credit cards from Luxembourg.

Google Play Store offers the full international portfolio but has a range of 1000 Dutch e-books through CB, which has the major Dutch publishers in its database: WPG, Lannoo, Prometheus and House of Books. Interesting is to know what percentage the Dutch publishers offer to Google Play Store and what is the difference with Amazon. Of course Google Play Store has the advantage over its competitors of it wide copyright free collection.

For Europe Google Play Store operates from Luxembourg. This has its advantages. Contrary to printed books, which are surcharged with 6 per cent Value Added Tax, e-books so far are officially surcharged with the VAT in the higher bracket. As an e-book is part of an electronic service, it is put in the higher bracket. In the Netherlands it surcharged with 23 per cent. In France and Luxembourg, the VAT is following the VAT lower bracket of respectively 5,5 per cent and 3 per cent, much to the chagrin of the European Commission. So, Google Play Store operating from Luxembourg, is benefitting from this low VAT rate, as well as the Dutch customers having compared the prices of Dutch language e-books. A book like NW by Zadie Smith was for sale at for 11,99 euro, but is available at the Google Play Store for 8,15 euro.

The books can be read in Google apps for Android and iOS. Besides they can be downloaded and stored in e-readers, PC,  tablets and mobile telephones. Google does not offer yet leasing books and reading books through Google. Once offered, you will need support for your browser from JavaScript. Google Play Store will also lease books in the future.

First negative comments have come on the usability. The American company does not understand the differences in languages and represents them indiscriminately in search results and listings; so you will find a list of results with French, Dutch and German results ad random. Also sorting on price is impossible for the time being.

With the arrival of Google Play Store e-book distribution channel a more competitive climate will arrive among the international (read US) players: Amazon, iTunes and Google. They all have differentiated USPs, products and prices. So it will be interesting to see which store will become the European darling. Local distributors will have their local advantages, but will have hard competition when it is for foreign e-books.
Big question will be: will Google Play Store have any impact on the Dutch e-book market? Stay tuned for our next posting.

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