Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Book lovers were heartened yesterday by the news that the American Booksellers Association signed a deal with Kobo to have Kobo devices sold in indie bookshops and the Kobo e-bookstore replacing the failed Google Books program for independent booksellers.
The images conjured in my mind were of a Verizon-store-like mini-display in my favorite local bookshop with a few Kobo products tastefully assembled and a Kiosk manned by a competent attendant to help me buy e-books and load them onto the reading device of my choice.
Unfortunately, that idyll is a fantasy for most indies that will participate in the program. Selling electronics is very different from selling books. After talking to a number of book industry observers, some of whom have worked in retail, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not nearly as simple as it seems.
Questions Physical Booksellers Need to Ask Themselves
What do I get for every device sale and is it worth the display space and retail energy I will be devoting to it?
How do the subsequent e-book sales factor into the equation?
What should be the new staff-training protocols?
How will I handle customer service?
Do I own the customer data or does someone else?
These few questions are just the beginning. It’s not like adding a pencil display near the checkout counter. Selling electronics is a whole new beast and retailers shouldn’t take the proposition lightly.
Questions That Physical Booksellers May Now Have to Answer About the Kobo Devices in Their Shops
Does this get WiFi?
What kind of processor does it have?
What’s the battery life?
If I download a book to this, can I transfer it to my phone? How?
So, is this like a Kindle?
I’m sure there are dozens more tough questions that I can’t even begin to anticipate. If I were a bookseller, I’d go to a Best Buy and take a few of the tablet and e-reader salespeople out for drinks and pick their brains.
The failure of the Google Books program suggests that the ABA could have done a better job preparing its members to enter into a new business. I hope the deal with Kobo (and other partners) works out better for the booksellers, the e-reader and e-book vendors and the e-book market as a whole.