When I read that Google Ebookstore had launched their much anticipated ebook site I immediately tried to upload my indie story, and was denied access to the site. A window kindly informed me that I lived outside the United States. Not having any choice, I abandoned the idea of listing my story.

A month or two passed and another ebook site asked authors to use a Google form to complain about a different issue. I won’t go into that here, but I did use the form. To their credit, Google replied to my complaint. The reply explained that to qualify for listing in Google Ebookstore authors had to own the publishing rights and reside in the United States. The second qualification for listing both irked and mystified me.

I can understand why Google might not ship outside the United States, different publishers and distributors hold various rights in different countries, layer electronic rights on top of print rights and it could easily turn into a legal quagmire. Barnes and Noble and Borders don’t ship ebooks outside the U.S., likely for similar reasons.

Google’s policy might have irked me because Canada has an open book market, and that situation long predates NAFTA or any free trade agreements. In the early 1990’s, I took a stab at being a bookstore operator, and at that time about 50% of the English-language books available in Canada were American, and the remainder Canadian and British. The policy mystified me because Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple and other American ebookstores and free ebook sites list authors from all over the world. Google Ebookstore’s policy is also a radical departure from the policy of Google Books.

I suspect Goggle Ebookstore has a different policy for major publishing houses; but, of course, without access to the site it is impossible to verify or dismiss my suspicion.

After swapping a couple of more emails with Google, I learned it plans to roll out Ebookstore to some other countries in the future. It will be interesting to see if it restricts listings to authors residing in those countries, or if American, and international, authors can export their ebooks through sites outside the U.S.A.

After swapping emails with Google it was a pleasure to discover a new free ebook site with more liberal listing policies. Compared to the Google whale bibliotastic.com is the proverbial guppy in a global aquarium. Based in London, England, bibliotastic.com was founded by James Crawshaw and is operated by a multi-continental team of volunteers. The site was officially launched February 16th, following a soft launch last November. Ebooks can be read online or downloaded in epub and prc (Kindle) formats.

One of its stated objectives is to be “a forum for writers to publish their work for free and for readers to decide what they like for themselves ... rather than just relying upon the commercial filters of mainstream publishing.”

In that respect, it is similar to other indie publishers / distributors such as smashwords.com and feedbooks.com.

Bibliotastic.com not only listed my book, but somehow found my web site and suggested publishing some of my unpublished flash fiction in a collected stories edition, and adapted my cover to suit the new collection free of charge, since it was exclusively for use on its site.

Bibliotastic does not have the distribution and all the features Smashwords or Feedbooks offer, and there might be teething problems to work out still. I downloaded a novel in prc format , and my computer informed me that it was zipped and when extracted all the chapters were individual files. That was too much for me to contend with, I went back to the site and downloaded an epub, and read it in Adobe Digital Editions. The prc download of my own collection of stories was a smaller file, came unzipped, and loaded directly into Mobipocket Reader. After reading this blog Bibliotastic sent an email to say the file was not really zipped and loads directly into Kindle PC reader software, and can be loaded into Mobipocket by changing the file extension from .prc to .mobi. The FAQ was updated the same day. I changed the file extension and the file loaded and generated a nice Mobipocket Book. The majority of people use Kindles, anyway.

Moving on. A feature indie authors want that Bibliotastic doesn’t have is a dashboard or simple download counter. I hope one or the other will be added to the site in the near future.

The booklist is still small and the number of site visits quite modest. Mr. Crawshaw was up front about that, and cautioned me not to expect a lot of downloads. But the book list and site traffic metrics should improve as more indie authors and ebook readers discover the site. Based on my experience, authors and readers alike will enjoy their experience and return to bibliotastic.com again and again.

The title of my collection is Healthy or Else and Other Stories.
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