Sunday, May 27, 2012

Direct ebooks to customers?

Publishers selling directly to customers?
What if publishers were to sell e-books and print books direct, straight to consumers—and consumers were to get used to the idea of buying direct? Suddenly one can imagine Amazon becoming an anachronism, joining the lengthy list of publishing’s dying or extinct species.
Well, there are some "ifs" there. And if you look close, they are big ones.
On the one hand it can be done, a few specialized publishers, like tech-book publisher O'Reilly, are quite successful at it. But they are specialized. Their customers know them, and they cover the field of computing. But if I want to buy the latest teenage/vampire romance saccharine fest, I have no idea where to get it, like most readers I have no idea of who is the publisher of what.

Then people would have to google it. People would have to get used to that, instead of "just using Amazon". And there'd be big competition about how to get to the top places at google. If some site got to be the search engine for books (like, then you'll bet they would like to get some piece of the pie. Granted, probably a smaller piece than Amazon.

I dunno. I like the idea of cutting out middlemen. But there are many thousands of publishers. How do the customers find them, particularly the small ones? Especially if the customer doesn't know they exist, or that they have a book you may want.

Also, and this is no small matter, it is much more difficult to set up a good web store than one would think. Really difficult. This is probably why Amazon rules the world, they have been genius at making an efficient web store. The first affiliate program. One-click buying (which they patented!) Customer reviews. Recommended products. Real ease of use, and great service. If you go to a different web store, particularly one with many products, odds are that your experience is much inferior. Sometimes I've even had to simply give up.

Oh, for ebooks there's also the small matter of: which ereader can the costumer use? If he is to have a choice in the matter (the only real solution for anybody smaller than B&N), then you can't use DRM (Digital Rights Management, copy protection). And most publishers are still terrified of the idea of not using DRM, they get nocturnal nightmares of Johnny Depp with a peg leg and a parrot, slicing them to pieces with a sword. Never mind all the studies show that DRM is more of an irritation than any block to real piracy.


Bruce said...

""What if publishers were to sell e-books and print books direct""

I don't believe that the word "direct" is appropriate here. Direct would be authors selling e-books. This is being done. will print the books, make the ebooks, receive payments and handle distribution on their website.

I'm not saying that is all that great at it, but it is at least being tried. I don't know if blurb finances book tours for authors or sends out books to reviewers; those are other service that publishers do that are valuable to authors,

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I think any company which did those things would be a publisher, almost by definition. Unless the author paid them to do it.

I can see your point about what's direct. There are many services which provide this, Lulu is one of the biggest.

Bruce said...

I guess I was thinking of "Book Publisher" like I thought of "Record Company" 20 years ago.

In the music biz DRM is mostly gone and musicians can sell direct to users. Touring is perhaps more important in the digital age, and having more merchandise/special services/subscriptions that fans can buy in addition to the music seems to be important as well.

Perhaps Authors will end up branching out a bit in what they sell as well. Buy the book, pay extra for access to the web site that has updates or notes about the book. An author may not be able to fill a big arena with a speaking engagement, but there may be some money in speaking at conferences and whatnot.