HarperCollins Pivots to Sell Print and Ebooks Directly to Readers Through Main Website

HarperCollins has relaunched its website and, in a way, its business.

The company is now selling all its book, ebooks and audiobooks directly to consumers through HarperCollins.com.

“We are excited to be able to offer an e-commerce solution to our authors, ensuring their books are always available to their fans,” said chief digital officer Chantal Restivo-Alessi in a statement. “As a publisher, we want to offer as many paths to the consumer as possible.”

Her comments may be in reference to the current dispute between Amazon and Hachette, wherein Amazon has taken steps to make it more difficult for readers to buy Hachette titles. Should HarperCollins be able to develop this new retail channel, it would make it less reliant on other retailers like Amazon.

Related: Reaching Readers Through Direct-to-Consumer Sales and Marketing

Previously, HarperCollins.com was directed to consumers, partners, investors and other stakeholders. Now, the site is focused solely on readers, helping them engage with HarperCollins authors and titles, and selling them books.

Like other retail sites, HarperCollins.com offers promotions, specials and discounts off of print and ebooks. The company is also offering free shipping on print titles.

new hc website

According to Publishers Lunch, this is just the first phase of a larger project to work with HarperCollins authors to sell books and ebooks directly to readers around the world:

Within the next couple of weeks Harper “will reach out to authors to make a concrete proposition” on how they “will be able to use the technology to sell directly from their own websites” with some simple code. Restivo-Alessi says they are still “working that through and thinking about whether we’ll offer some additional benefit” to authors for sales they enable. At a minimum, she promises “we’ll be totally transparent with them on the learning” through any direct sales Harper makes, including customer names that will enhance marketing to the author’s fans and insights into “the reading behavior” of readers using the HC app.

The new site, which is currently U.S.-only, will be rolled out to major HarperCollins territories in the next year.

Learn More: Chantal Restivo-Alessi on Direct Retail for Publishers


Publishers and Selling Direct

Publishers have traditionally been hesitant to launch their own e-commerce operations, selling directly to readers. Managing an e-commerce operation is complex, difficult and not a core competency for publishers. And besides, they would be competing with their partners, retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, which already have large and well-tuned e-commerce operations.

But some publishers, particularly publishers with vertical audiences, have launched direct sales operations and have had some success. Most recently, Verso, a New York- and London-based publisher of political and philosophical titles, has launched a very successful e-commerce operation. F+W, which publishes Digital Book World, has a reported eight-figure e-commerce business and had 20 million customers in 2013. HarperCollins had previously dabbled in selling directly to readers with its launch of Narnia.com.


HarperCollins and Amazon

Many in the book publishing industry will see this launch as a preemptive move to counter Amazon’s influence. As publishers become more reliant on Amazon as a retailer, it gives Amazon more power in its contracts with those publishers. The same is true for any other retailer.

If HarperCollins can develop its own sales channels, it will give it more power in negotiations with retailers.


Chantal Restivo-Alessi and Angela Tribelli

In 2012, HarperCollins appointed two publishing outsiders to senior-level positions: Angela Tribelli was made chief marketing officer and Chantal Restivo-Alessi was made chief digital officer. Both appointments have had a huge impact on how HarperCollins does business.

Since Tribelli and Restivo-Alessi started at the publisher, HarperCollins has earned a reputation as one of the most innovative publishers. HarperCollins was among the first and most aggressive publishers in entering into the ebook subscription business, signing deals with Oyster, Scribd and others. The company was the first of the largest publishers to invest heavily in direct sales and e-commerce. It has a new transmedia project coming out in partnership with award-winning Niantic Labs. It has done experimental marketing and dabbled with authors signing ebooks. The company even launched its own technology innovation contest. The list goes on.

HarperCollins also acquired romance publisher Harlequin, perhaps in an attempt to make its business more vertical in anticipation of direct sales ventures like the new HarperCollins.com.


Related: Should Publishers Sell Direct-to-Consumer? | How to Expand Sales Channels by Going Direct-to-Consumer


5 thoughts on “HarperCollins Pivots to Sell Print and Ebooks Directly to Readers Through Main Website

  1. Theresa M. Moore

    I have been selling books and ebooks direct from my own site for years, and applaud this move by Harper Collins, as it is long overdue. While HP is but one of many publishers trying to leverage their very survival against Amazon’s juggernaut, others need to pick up the ball and run with it on their own. It may be time for them to present a united front against Amazon, which is a retailer, not a publisher. As long as it continues to dictate terms and fix prices in its favor, it is harming the book and ebook industry. Authors and publishers cannot survive on air, and Amazon does not care as long as it claims it can offer unfairly low prices to consumers. A books is not a widget. It is an item of value, created by someone and published by someone. It is only fair to charge what is fair, and Amazon fails to see that by cheapening the product it is harming its own long term survival. Without books and ebooks, Amazon will no longer be the “everything store”. Jeff Bezos should think about that the next time he extolls the virtues of his oversized dinosaur.

  2. aring633

    This article lost me at \Amazon has taken steps to make it more difficult for readers to buy Hachette titles.\ Not true. Hatchette titles are still available. The only thing that has been removed is the preorder button for upcoming Hatchette titles, as Amazon doesn’t want to promise product that may be unavailable later if negotiations don’t work out. That is good business sense, and Amazon has encouraged readers to visit other retailers and purchase from them if necessary.

    Theresa M. Moore, you fail to understand business. Prices do not have to be high to make a profit. One book sold at $10 yields the same revenue as five sold at $2. (And in the case of e-books, it’s cheaper, per unit, to produce 5 than 1.) Many more people can enjoy books at $2 than at $10. Isn’t that what the literati elite want – more people reading? Or maybe not. Maybe they want literature to be available only to those who can afford it.

    I am an author, and pricing is important to me and my livelihood. So is diversification of distribution channels. If HarperCollins wants to sell their own books, great. Competition is good. But competition inherently drives price down, or increases service, or decreases inherent costs to produce a product. Traditional publishers could choose to go leaner, operate more efficiently, and pass those boosts in profits on to their authors and/or their readers. Is this what they’ve done?

    No. They’ve dug their heels in. They want to continue to pay laughable advances and royalties and make money on the backs of their artists in order to prop up their bloated infrastructures. You think Amazon is the only one dictating terms and fixing prices? Please. Amazon has given these starving artists a way to make money, serious money. Of course, Amazon is a business and will make decisions in its own self interest. But those interests align more closely with mine, both as a writer and as a reader, than those of the Big Five do.

  3. Holly Bush

    It’s great that HP is selling books from their site. It is the obvious thing to do and I’m shocked it’s taken them so long. As far as Amazon’s prices, or any prices for that matter, they are set by what the consumer is willing to pay. Who are you to decide what is fair? You’re welcome to charge $4000 for your short story but if no one buys it then your pricing strategy needs adjusted. And on some level, a book is a widget. It is an item. Granted the process for it’s manufacture is different from the standard widget, but it is still an item for sale. If you think Amazon is the boogeyman, don’t sell or buy there. Stick to your publisher who has 40 more children’s books by Madonna in the wings.

  4. Cynthia

    I have writing poetry eBook finding it difficult trying to get sale or I am not sure what I am doing wrong. What is the best way to get sales eBooks. thank for any ideas. Everyone wants charge for this and that. I dont mind paying but i want to make an honest living

  5. David Turgoose

    Over the last couple of years I tend to buy e-Books (ePub format) from SpeedyHen for fiction and also Pen and Sword. I do not use Amazon, i-reader, Google and Kobo as I can only see a declining providers of e-readers. Regarding purchasing e-books I found that Harper Collins uses the same selling (or renting) technique as A, i, G and K. For a fiction book I will not normally pay the same as a hard back or paper back book although my thoughts on that are changing as e-books carry VAT.
    What I object to is not possessing an e -book on my own computer and having to use an electronic library. The situation is slowly evolving to a point where the purchase of e-books actually means renting an e-book from say five or six providers each of which has its own accessing system or reader.
    Will we ever reach the stage of having an audio version and an e-bbok on a computer disk?



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