Revamping the Traditional Ebook Retailer

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Over the past few weeks, three traditional content providers opened up category bookstores online.  Penguin-Random House launched a cookbook store TasteBook; the Chicago Tribune launched TribBooks to focus on Chicago-related titles and Simon & Schuster launched 250 Words focused on business books.

Although they will compete with general on-line bookstores like Amazon, Apple iBookstore and B&, they are also slicing off a segment and aiming to be the expert to curate specific types of books based in specific categories. This is a smart strategy, for just being a “general on-line bookstore” is a crowded and difficult place to be.

By focusing on the verticals, each site can offer more detail and depth in the specific areas.

38ensoPRH and TasteBook:   Penguin-Random House is leveraging the strength of the cookbook segment to launch TasteBook. They have over ½ million users now and that is a key demo to go after. Plus, cooking is a category that is still driven by print titles although there is a lot of free content on-line. They will sell direct, but they also are driving sales to other retailers. They are selling both physical and digital books.

Some of the aspects of the site:

  • 10,000 cookbooks from many publishers. Amazon lists 187,000 titles
  • A place to collect and buy recipes for as little as $0.29 per item
  • Many ebook exclusives if bought direct from TasteBook
  • Very visual with a “Pinterest” inspired look
  • The ability to “create a cookbook” and add your own selected content

38ensoChicago Tribune and TribBooks:    The Chicago Tribune is using their local reach and credibility to sell ebooks. They offer over 1-million titles and are selling books in all categories from most publishers. But what makes them unique is they can play into the provincial attitudes of many Chicagoland residents. There are enormous benefits from understanding the local market and promoting to that niche, especially in a large market with a rich history like Chicago. This is reminiscent of how ESPN has regional websites and radio.

Some of the categories on the website:

  • Chicago Tribune ebooks (and exclusives)
  • One Book One Chicago
  • Chicago in Writing
  • Chicago Authors We Love
  • Underground Chicago
  • Mayor Emanuel’s Reading
  • Oprah
  • Browse Chicago Publishers (although they only have three listed)

38ensoS&S and 250 Words:    After selling Bookish to Zola, S&S embarked on a more focused marketing strategy with 250 Words. This site smartly plays to a business audience that is busy but also purchases a lot of books. By using a quick email each day, 250 Words aims to grab this desirable audience.  I subscribed and so far have found it effective.

A few things that make it stand out:

  • Strong editorial run by well-respected editors
  • Heavily focused on blogs, interviews and articles
  • The Book Lists section where influencers each list what to read etc. is a great feature

As bookselling evolves and on-line shopping becomes more ingrained in our industry, there will continue to be new ways to sell books.  The market may be dominated by a single company (and that shifts every decade or so), but these are just three recent examples of that how that is challenged.




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