Google has announced that from next year, it will no longer allow independent bookstores to sell its digital books through their websites.

The American Booksellers Association (ABA) broke the news in an email to its members earlier today, noting that that from January 31, 2013, Google Play will be the only way to purchase eBooks through Google. The reseller program was essentially Google acting as a wholesaler to numerous online retailers, such as IndieCommerce, Powell’s and other partners in the US and elsewhere around the world, including in Canada, the UK, France, and Australia.

Whilst it is a bit of bombshell for smaller bookstores looking to vie with the big eBook giants, ABA president Oren J. Teicher was optimistic in the face of disappointment with the move, and indicated that they will seek to build a better and more robust eBook offering.

“To say the least, we are very disappointed in Google’s decision, but, we have every confidence that, long before Google’s reseller program is discontinued, ABA will be able to offer IndieCommerce users a new alternative e-book product, or choice of products, that will not only replace Google eBooks as it currently works on IndieCommerce sites, but that will be in many ways a better product,” he said.

The partnership between the ABC and Google was struck in May 2010, with the first eBooks going on sale in December of that year through IndieCommerce. “This partnership with Google is an important chapter in the renaissance we’ve been seeing in independent bookselling,” said then ABA President Michael Tucker. “It allows our membership to better compete with corporate retailers on selection, price, and convenience. It levels the playing field.”

So, a little over a year since the program first rolled out, this won’t be greeted as good news by many indies, but at least this gives some time for the ABA to act on its words and help support the roll-out out of a new eBook program.

The full email, courtesy of MediaBistro, reads as follows:

Dear Bookseller:

We were notified Tuesday afternoon by Google that they will be discontinuing the Google eBooks reseller program, worldwide, effective January 31, 2013. As you may be aware, the reseller program is Google’s program as an e-book wholesaler to numerous online retailers, including IndieCommerce, as well as Powell’s and other partners in the United States and around the world, including partners in Canada, the UK, France, and Australia. Google’s decision to discontinue the program is, therefore, far larger than just IndieCommerce and the users of our product. After January 31, 2013, Google will sell e-books through Google Play only.

To say the least, we are very disappointed in Google’s decision, but, we have every confidence that, long before Google’s reseller program is discontinued, ABA will be able to offer IndieCommerce users a new alternative e-book product, or choice of products, that will not only replace Google eBooks as it currently works on IndieCommerce sites but that will be in many ways a better product.

From the start, we have recognized certain realities of our working with Google. As an enormous, multinational corporation, Google has interests far beyond independent bookstores, and the book world at large, and, at times, it has lacked understanding of many basic principles of our industry. Also, recognizing that it is never advantageous to rely too solely on only one vendor, throughout the time of our relationship with Google, ABA has been actively engaged in talking to many other potential industry partners, in case the need arose to replace or to supplement Google’s offering.

As you recall, we partnered with Google in 2010 because it was the only viable means for us to enter the e-book market, but, like so much else in our industry, things have changed rapidly, and we have options that simply did not exist 18 months ago. While we know that our volume of e-book sales has been modest, we also know that being able to offer e-books to your customers is an indispensable feature of any bookstore’s web offerings, and this capacity has helped drive online traffic that has contributed to increased overall sales. Moreover, we’ve all learned a lot about selling e-books in the last year and a half, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to build an improved product.

We are totally committed to providing IndieCommerce stores the means to continue to sell e-books, and, at minimum, we expect to move forward quickly with one or more partners who will better understand — and who will maintain closer ties to — your stores, and to the book industry in general.

We recognize that this is a significant development, and I want to underscore that, in this transition period, Google eBooks will continue to be available via your websites. We also have every reason to believe that e-books purchased from your store will persist in your customers’ Google Accounts after the reseller program ends. We will share additional details as we learn them.

I know that change can be disconcerting and disruptive, but with input from the ABA Board, our Digital Task Force, and our Indie Commerce Advisory Council, we will get through this, and, in the end, I am confident that we will be able to offer a better and more robust e-book product.