Tomely launched earlier this month with a focus on selling ebooks from independent publishers and authors. International game developer Alpenwolf will soon be selling ebook via in-game stores. While the new Ebook Bookshelf App from StoryToys lets consumers browse and experience ebooks before they chose to buy. These innovations in Internet bookselling have a history, as do all features of the digital revolution, and it’s a history that publishing pros would do well to learn from, while shaping the industry’s future.
Digital Book World asked Renée Register, co-author of The Metadata Handbook: A Publisher’s Guide to Creating and Distributing Metadata for Print and Ebooks for a bit more perspective on the nuanced history of online bookselling.
Renée Register is teaching a series of DBW U online courses about metadata. The first class starts Monday, June 24, and looks at the history of digital bookselling in even further depth. Sign up today for Introduction to Metadata for Books: History, Standards, and the Current Landscape.
Deanna Utroske: What differentiates the online-bookselling approaches of Amazon, traditional brick-and-mortar booksellers, and publishers?
Renée Register: Since Amazon jumped into this space first, they had the advantage of setting consumer expectations for an online bookstore. Many traditional brick-and-mortar booksellers rose to the challenge. The larger retailers that didn’t are mostly gone. Retailers had to transform what was largely back-office information about books into compelling user-facing metadata and platforms and adapt their merchandising expertise to fit a webstore experience.
Large retailers, like Barnes & Noble in the U.S., and many independents, maintain excellent online stores. But it’s also important for them to maintain a strong connection to the community, both physically and emotionally. Their online bookstores allow the option of physical pick-up of ordered items and also promote in-store events and community activities.
Publishers traditionally relied heavily on wholesalers and retailers to create the customer experience – whether business-to-business or business-to-consumer. The web allows them to communicate directly with consumers in addition to leveraging booksellers. As with retailers, there’s a learning curve in translating the rich information in print catalogs and other sales tools to the online environment.
DU: Each player in the publishing and bookselling industry uses metadata differently. What are a few of the actionable advantages to understanding how aggregators, wholesalers, retailers and others use that data?
RR: Understanding why trading partners need metadata and how they use it in selling is very important in developing publisher metadata policies and workflows that work in multiple selling environments. When publishers understand what happens to their metadata downstream – why their trading partners need certain metadata elements, why they require metadata to be formatted in a certain way, the needs of specific markets (libraries, for example), and how all that works in consumer-facing selling tools – it’s much easier to develop publisher metadata strategies and train publisher staff to support downstream bookselling activities.
Image Credit: bookshelf image via Shutterstock.