opinion When you’re a tech junkie like me, when you delve into the Blio project, you will find yourself going “OMG, Ray Kurzweil!”. It’s a similar situation if you’re a bookseller and have been up to speed with recent events in eBooks. You may find yourself going “OMG, Baker & Taylor!”
Now, in my writing in Delimiter and now in Oz-E-Books, I am discovering new and weird things in the realm of Australian publishing. One thing is that Australian small booksellers really hate the Australian distribution system, which is owned by the Australian publishing houses.
The Australian system is focused on the big stores and chains to the detriment of the specialist shops and small book retailers. This is a gap that companies like B&T are taking advantage of, with a series of seminars and presentations via (or organised by) the Australian Booksellers Association.
Now, they are not the only US distributor in the eBook game, with Overdrive offering a turnkey marketplace for web retailers (as used by Read Without Paper). However, the B&T play is interesting, because it is attempting to get the local booksellers into the game, rather than create competitors.
Now, as my bookshop-owning friend Tim at Infinitas points out, good small book retailers can do something that large booksellers can not do: create communities. As someone that has been going to Infinitas book reader meetings since the early 1990’s, and have helped or attended author signings, book readings, games days and a lot of other events, having a bookshop as a focus of your book lifestyle creates strong loyalty to the shop, and if the staff know you well, the human powered book referral system is by far more powerful than Amazon’s data mining.
Now, if the stars align on this, if B&T can tap into this community spirit and build the small retailers into the business model for eBooks, something special can be created. Imagine walking into your local store (or even logging onto the bookshop forum, as not all communities are geographically based), and the staff tells you that there is a new book out that you would be interested in.
Given that there is a level of trust between you and the bookshop that companies like Borders or Dymocks could never compete with, you say “Sure, I will give it a try”. They sell you a voucher on the spot for the eBook, and if they offer free Wi-Fi, you could even instantly download the book.
Compare this to, um, every other eBook seller, where unless the bookseller has an affiliate relationship with the supplier, they will look at every eBook app and device as another competitor that will steal sales from them.
Now, if B&T and Blio can work out a format and DRM regime that won’t annoy the long-suffering consumers already overburdened with DRM, incompatible devices and numerous apps required to read a book, having friendly local sellers onside may be the secret ingredient in winning the format wars!
Darryl Adams is a government worker and internet tragic. A former IT worker, he still pines for the days of IBM keyboards that go CRUNCH and the glow of green screens. He can be found on on Twitter or on Facebook. Check out his site oz-e-books.com for more articles about e-book readers, retailers, formats and news (or will have when Darryl can be drawn away from reading Delimiter).
The views expressed here do not reflect the views of his employer, the ATO.
Image credit: Amazon