One year and one week ago I received an e-mail from Google Books saying I could authorize them to sell ebook versions of the titles I included in their program. I authorized them immediately, but for whatever the reason, that option remains in limbo. I thought they might bundle the launch with their Google Checkout™ program, but it didn't materialize. I even sent the one Google contact I had an e-mail suggesting they get their electrons together and launch when Amazon stopped carrying Lightning Source ebooks. Maybe they're waiting for the perfect portable reader.
But I received confirmation over the weekend that Google Books had indeed sold at least one book for me, and I got it from the least impeachable source on Affiliate program purchases I've encountered - a customer:
"PS - I found you in the #1 spot on Goggle:
Book results for print on demand books
Print-on-demand Book Publishing - by Morris Rosenthal - 173 pages
Washington Rock and Roll - by Mark Opsasnick - 196 pages
Handbook of Print Media - by Helmut (EDT) Kipphan - 1207 pages"
She actually pasted in the Google Books result above, which is particularly interesting because I can't reproduce it myself. Not on the Book Search site and not through the normal Google Search page. I'm not terribly surprised because the Books results on Google's main page have been coming and going as long as I've been paying attention. I'm not sure whether it's due to a massive A/B test, a "we're watching you" customization, or just some random number generator. What's also strange is that the results she pasted in show a different page count than I get when I search on the title at Google Books.
But what really struck me from the context of her e-mail was that she went to Google to search for a book. I've granted Amazon the same search monopoly on books I've granted Google on web pages, to the extent that I've gone to Amazon to find books to buy on BN.com with a Barnes and Noble gift card. My gut feeling is that the basic search function on Amazon has been driving an increasing proportion of their sales over the years, as customers became comfortable with the notion of browsing an online bookstore. If book buyers start turning to Google to do their book browsing, it could end up costing Amazon sales, since Google lists a number of retailers for books. Maybe Google is just waiting for some critical mass of book browsers before they start selling ebooks, or maybe that's wishful thinking.