Amazon, Google and the Bad Blood of eCommerce Books

Last year was full of talk about the ongoing battle between Google and Amazon. There’s no doubt these two have been competing obscurely for a long time now, so I thought what better way to ring in the new year than with a quick recap on their heated competition as it relates to books and industry crossover.

Just a little over a year ago there were senate hearings in progress along with lawsuits and plenty of venomous verbal attacks all pertaining to competition in digital book sales and copyright protections. Amazon was upset, again, as Google pursued its efforts to absorb the book market by digitizing the printed words of the world. It was in the midst of these hearings that Google offered to let anyone resell the millions of out of print pages it had scanned in the Google Book Search project (now called Google Books), perhaps as a peace offering.  Amazon irritably responded, Pffff!

But what’s done is done. Five years ago decision makers on Capital Hill deliberated over how to deal with enforcing copyright laws in regards to Google Books, and the end result ultimately expanded Google’s authority over the scanned materials in exchange for an agreement to revenue sharing and a $125 million settlement with authors and publishers.

Of course I understand that the enterprise ecommerce giant is sensitive to Google’s online book selling/scanning intrusion, but it seems strange that Amazon wouldn’t want in just a little bit seeing how it will give them access to a huge storehouse of otherwise unavailable text; more than 12 million titles to be more accurate. Understanding that online booksellers tend to sell at a loss, it seems this should be a game of sheer volume.

People have tirelessly hashed out whether or not Google is attacking on industry edges or directly targeting the core of some companies, like Amazon’s book sales. But what are we really debating here that makes people vehemently defend their positions on this topic? Here’s what I see Google doing; proficient dabbling, and plenty of it. People will argue the failures of projects like Froogle demonstrate the company tends to wander beyond its capability, yet the success of others like the Android Platform show they’re perfectly capable of going toe to toe with big muscle like Apple. But in the end, its ad sales that account for almost all of the revenue Google reports year in and year out. So again I ask, what’s the real issue?

In the back of my mind Amazon has always been the online bookstore, not only because of its size, but because it’s the book that started it all for them in the mid 1990’s. But in a free market a company can choose what they want to sell, and then compete to make gains. So why is this so terribly different? If anything, shouldn’t we all be a little more focused on the effects of copyright protections going forward?

It wasn’t my intent to take sides, but the more I thought about this the more I realize that many observers don’t like how Google tends to stray from its core, that is, improving search and focusing on revenue through ad sales. But anyone who glances at the business or tech news once a month probably understands very well that Google is a company that operates on the fringe.

Jared Matkin is a staff writer for HotWax Media with a background in PR, Branding and Marketing. He’s also a light-hearted and an opinionated character who will join other HotWax Media employees and advisers in periodically posting his thoughts on topics ranging from enterprise eCommerce to business and technology.

DATE: Jan 05, 2011
AUTHOR: HotWax Systems
Enterprise eCommerce