The Denver Post checks in with independent bookstores taking part in the American Booksellers Association and Kobo’s program to allow independent bookstores to sell e-books. It finds out that the program is not going so well, either in terms of profit per book or in the number of people actually taking them up on it.

Boulder Bookstore sells e-books through Kobo and was previously part of a Google eBook deal. But [inventory manager Arsen] Kashkashian said neither deal was “any good.” He estimates the store has about 10 customers who regularly purchase e-books, with a few other occasional downloads.

“I don’t have exact numbers but let’s say we make $10 off each hardback copy of (Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman”). E-books make 50 cents,” he said.

Other bookstores indicate they feel it’s worth doing not so much for the number of books it sells, but to give customers the additional option of buying an e-book through them if that’s what they want to do.

The article also indicates that Zola Books, the folks who bought the failed Big-Five social media site Bookish last year, have an e-book sales partnership deal with some bookstores that has also largely languished, but Bookish’s CEO promises they’ve come up with really good new technology to let bookstores to sell e-books, and they’ll be going public with it in the next few months. Really.

I find myself wondering just how much of the lack of e-book customers comes from a lack of promotion that the option even exists. I see from doing a search on the ABA’s partner program web site that Indy Reads Books, a local Indianapolis bookstore, is a member of the program—but when I asked one of their employees about it at their booth at Gen Con last weekend, she had no idea what it even was. I certainly haven’t seen any signage about it when I’ve been in the store itself. If I were the average customer, how would I even know it existed?

Most people who come to a bookstore do so with physical books in mind. If they bookstore isn’t making it obvious that the option is available, who’s even going to know about it, let alone use it? But then again, why would they want to promote it if they only make 1/20 of the profit from it?

So it ends up coming off like they want to keep the option available to their customers…if their customers actually do the research to figure out the option exists. Given that, it’s not exactly a surprise that the program is doing poorly.

(Found via Publishing Perspectives.)


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