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04 November 2009

More on E-Books

Back in May of this year 2009 (which is quickly coming to an end), we were attending the BookExpo in NYC and duly participating in sessions by our trade group -- American Booksellers Assn/IndieBound -- whose mission was to chastise those among us who are still reluctant to go whole-hog the way of internet commerce and e-books.

Presenters showed charts overlaid upon charts indicating the steeply rising trend of e-books. They said, look, publishers have already written you bricks & mortar stores off as a channel of distribution. The future (which Larry recalls the charts saying is about 4 years from now) is people buying and downloading an electronic file at the moment they hear about a fantastic new book at a dinner party or through a blog. At worst case, they won't be able to get it directly from their wireless carrier or preferred online retailer and will walk into a kiosk at a store like Books on First which will could provide all available titles in all available formats. But at best case, www.booksonfirst.com would be their preferred online retailer (but not if they own a Kindle, because there's no reason to believe amazon.com is ever going to share that technology).

One long-time employee and basically "face" of the Association to most members held up his iphone and announced that he does 80% of his reading from it (and, don't you want me, baby?). So, he was telling us the future is now, and gee, I'd like to support the people who pay my salary but can't but would (I promise), if I can just drag you into the here and now.

So, we're all walking around in a daze mumbling, "Time to get the e-books. Time to get the e-books."

Some participants were alert enough to push back on these panelists and saying, if not the Kindle then what? What can we offer our customers and how to we deliver it to them?

But, they didn't even have the solution in place! The time to sell us was at the moment, at that moment of guilt/shame/abashment/whatever for not having the resources (time, money, employees, talent, technology, etc, but mostly money which could solve all the rest) and proper priorities to "do the right thing" (hmm, you know, that phrase comes up a lot now also in contexts when consultants try to persuade businesses to "think green").

So, I admit, I looked up Sony's e-readers online to see if they were taking on retailers. And, do you know what outlet this Company uses to sell their e-readers? Best Buy. Like someone wanting a DVD player or a high-definition television screen or a cheap PC is also the target market for a book And, now, Best Buy really believes it can sell these e-readers as an electronic device and is partnering with someone else to develop a proprietary product of its own. Sony, which hasn't been taking this seriously, now knows the ball is in its court. Are you with us Indies, Sony, or will we continue to be two islands in the stream?

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