In “Company Snapshots,” we pose a series of questions to leading providers of digital products and services and let them speak for themselves about what their company does, how they benefit publishers, and what they believe the biggest trends in the industry are. In today’s entry, we have Hummingbird Digital Media.
What does your company do?
We offer a free, turnkey ebook and audiobook retailing platform. The platform allows bookstores, publishers and others to compete with Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble in the digital arena. Each merchant gets its own branded and customizable storefront for their customers to use for the discovery, purchasing and downloading of digital media. They also get a robust branded app for reading and listening. Merchants can sell directly to their customers from the full catalogs of more than 3,000 publishers, including Hachette, Macmillan, HarperCollins, etc. There are never any fees involved, and merchants make up to 23 percent of every sale.
What’s unique about your company compared to your competitors?
We like to ask our merchants two questions: Why send your digital book customers to a third party website, and why make your customers use two apps, one for reading and another for listening? Since Hummingbird remains in the background, a merchant’s customer never leaves the merchant’s universe. And, with Hummingbird, only one app is used for both reading ebooks and listening to audiobooks.
What’s the single biggest benefit your customers get from your service?
Revenue. Ebooks and audiobooks are 25 to 30 percent of the retail book market today. Why should anyone with a customer base leave that revenue for others? Since our system is completely turnkey, the additional revenue is like found money.
What’s the single biggest problem for your customers right now?
Letting their consumers know they offer a robust digital book platform that is competitive to the big three retailers. Bookstores in particular need to get their customers to realize they are now in the ebook and audiobook business. This is going to take a consistent effort using in-store point-of-sale materials, as well as mentioning that they’re in the digital book business in emails and other communications they have with their customers.
What’s the single biggest opportunity for your customers right now?
The vast amount of information and misinformation on the Internet is, perversely, a great opportunity—especially for the educational and trade non-fiction publishers that make up most of our customers. For all the hype that the good content will somehow rise to the top, the fact is that few of us have the time to waste churning through piles of dross to find the gems. Publishers that can persuade customers that they are a reliable and cost-effective source of gems will be successful.
What industry trends do you think will have the greatest impact on your customers over the next 24 months?
First, disintermediation, where multiple middlemen will play a diminishing role in the supply chain and, second, a backlash to the consolidation of publishers, distributors and retailers. One needs only to look at the California wine industry to see what this is likely to look like. Years ago, the family-owned wineries were being bought up by a few large conglomerates. Conventional wisdom at the time suggested there would, at some point, be only two or three companies controlling the production and sale of California wine. As it turned out, boutique wineries began to flourish. Today these many small wineries enjoy a heathy market selling directly to consumers and select retailers. Of course it’ll look a little different in the book industry, but wasn’t it Edgar Allan Poe who best described the course of a pendulum?
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