Gifting Google (and why it’s unlikely to happen soon)


Shortly before digging into the copy of Cognitive Surplus I bought on Google ebooks the other day I read this piece comparing the relative merits of Google, Amazon and Apple’s offerings. One of the areas of the store/reading experience it didn’t touch on was gifting. Since getting my Kindle I don’t really want any more dead tree books, so I converted all of my Amazon wish list items over to Kindle format where available (as there wasn’t any proper DRM free option). Sadly gifting isn’t yet available on, so I see this:

Notice how the ‘why not’ explanation doesn’t really provide any further information?

I’m hopeful that it will be fixed soon (though looks like not in time for Christmas), as gifting is now available in the US:

Whilst I would expect that Google will quickly catch up with this, I have my doubts. It seems that publishers are still trying to maintain a geographic sales model that doesn’t shape up well on a global internet[1]. One of the hurdles being put in the way of buyers is the need to pay from the same geography as the sale. That hurdle works fine when somebody is buying for themselves, but gets smashed when you allow people to buy stuff for each other (even indirectly through gift cards or similar).

Google has been very slow in this area. Google Voice is still stuck in the US, a situation that’s sure to be in part due to tax and payments issues. There’s also no gift card mechanism for Google Checkout (besides the fact that they accept gift cards from the payments card companies). Perhaps until now the gift of Google wasn’t that alluring – who would want a Google Apps subscription for their birthday? The Android marketplace, Chrome marketplace and Google Books surely change that though. The trouble for Google will be how do they keep upstream relationships with the ‘content’ industry in good shape whilst providing what customers want?

[1] Charles Stross has already done an excellent job of explaining Territories, Translations, and Foreign Rights in his Common Misconceptions About Publishing series, so I don’t have to.

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