In its first international launch, the Google (NSDQ: GOOG) eBookstore is now open for business in the UK. Australian and Canadian stores will follow soon.
The Google eBookstore launched in the U.S. last December, but it has not become a major presence here and is lagging far behind the Kindle and Nook bookstores.
In the UK, however, the e-book market is still in its early stages: The Kindle UK store is only a little over a year old, and the e-book market, while growing very quickly, is still far behind that in the U.S. This gives the Google eBookstore a better chance of becoming an important player.
Google has signed agreements with large UK publishers, including Random House, Penguin, and Hachette, to sell their books in the eBookstore. Google is also allowing independent bookstores in Gardner’s Hive network to sell Google e-books through their own sites and to receive commissions for referring buyers to the store, as members of the American Booksellers Association can in the U.S.
But even with these agreements in place, in these early days, the catalog in Google’s UK eBookstore seems a little patchy. A search in poetry for “Sylvia Plath” seemed to bring up everything but the girl. And if you are interested to browse Google’s selection of free e-books, good luck: there is no way to navigate to them as a category.
In the U.S., Google has an e-reader partner, the unpopular iriver Story HD. So far, however, the Google eBookstore is not partnering with any e-reading device in the UK.
According to The Bookseller, Google will launch the eBookstore in non-English markets sometime in 2012. The Australian and Canadian stores will open sooner.