Google Play: God of eBooks? I think not.

Amazon gets a lot of crap for their relations with indie authors at times. In my personal dealings with Amazon, they’ve done a great job of helping me when I need help, fixing things that get screwed up, and answering questions. I don’t love every single thing about Amazon and how it works in relation to ebook publishing, but I’ve had a very good experience with them.

Play StoreEnter Google Play…

I feel like I should follow that up with a “dun, dun, dun” because the experience I just had with them certainly wasn’t pleasant nor the kind of thing that would lead me to recommend their service to, well, anyone.

What drove me to Google Play?

Many of my Wattpad readers aren’t in the US. In fact, a hefty majority of them are not. Not everyone can get on Amazon and order books. The Play store is easier for some of them to use and several mentioned their parents had set up monthly allowances for them on the Play store and they could buy my books there if only they were available. So, I went on a search to figure out how to add my books to the Play store.

That seriously took forever. The setup when I first looked into it was ridiculously complicated and the system was pretty buggy. I gave up after a while. Recently though, I got asked again if my books were on the Play store and re-investigated. Surprisingly, the platform had improved enough that I could at least get through the process of adding all my books.

Done, right?

Not quite.

The last few months I’ve noticed my sales figures on Amazon dropping bit by bit. That happens pretty much every summer, so I didn’t think much of it at first. But it kept dropping.

This summer has been super busy for our family so I wasn’t paying great attention to what was going on with my books on Amazon until I went in to setup and price my Aerling Box Set and realized several of my books were being pretty steeply discounted on Amazon.

Given that I hadn’t changed the price on any other platform for Amazon to price match, I wondered what on earth was going on? I shot off an email to Amazon asking what the deal was, and as always they sent me back a quick reply saying the book in question was currently discounted more than $1 (That’s a lot in ebooks) on…you guessed it…Google Play store.

So, of course, my next online stop was my Play account to figure out how the price had gotten changed. Hacker? Kids playing around when I left my computer on? Magic?

Question MarkThe answer…?

Google Play Store itself. Yep. They apparently think of themselves as the GOD of ebook publishing. Every single one of my books that wasn’t already free had been discounted between 0.50 and $1. You can bet I was pissed. A quick internet search and a Facebook post brought back some interesting answers.

Buried inside the user agreement for the Play store it says, Play gets to price your content however it wants. You can set your own price, sure, but they’re going to ignore it. Thinking, surely that can’t be true, because what kind of company tells their content producers that sure you can sell your stuff with us, but we get to pick the price and you just have to live with it even if it negatively affects your sales with other merchants?

Surely not, right?

Surely YES.

When I opened up a chat session with customer service and put the question about the discounting straight to them, their answer was, “WE’RE GOOGLE. WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT.”

Okay, that wasn’t the exact wording, but it was indeed the answer to my question. NO they would not change the price back. NO they would not compensate for royalties lost because Amazon price matched them. NO they didn’t care that this might be an adverse effect of their pricing policy. NO. Just NO.

My answer to them?


See ya later Google!

I pulled all my books as soon as I closed the chat and I will no longer be offering any of my books on the Play store or any platform that so blatantly disregards and takes advantage of the people providing them with content. I’m far from the only person who’s had to deal with this–as I found out after posting the question on Facebook–and I won’t be the last.

I know I’m not the kind of author who can say, DON’T sell your books on Google Play and suddenly everyone will abandon it, but I help authors get started in indie or hybrid publishing fairly often. I teach publishing and writing class at our local community college–which I know isn’t a huge deal–but you can bet I will never again include Play as a legitimate and worthwhile publishing platform in my recommendations or classes.

Thank you for the lesson learned Google Play.