Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Creativity in book retail

I have come across two different, creative ways that companies have been invented to get books into the hands of readers.

I discovered the first while picking up a book at the Paradies Shops in my local airport Islip, Long Island. They have a Read and Return policy where you can buy the book, read it and return to any of their locations for a 50% refund (not store credit- I checked). They have about 60 locations in airports across the country. Since there is one conveniently located in my local airport, I may actually take advantage of this regularly. Of course, I have a tendency to hang on to books I like, but I am out of shelf space. Since I paid full retail, the 50% return refund would bring the book to me at a cost much lower than Amazon or B&N. The book in question, by the way, was Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor from a Navy Seal team on a mission gone wrong in Afghanistan. Excellent book, written in an authentic voice.
Lone Survivor

The second unique approach is BookSwim. This is a netflix-like approach to 'renting' books based on a monthly subscription, with the US Postal service as their delivery mechanism. They must face some unique challenges to bring this business model into equilibrium, such asthe cost of shipping a larger book compared to a dvd, the cost of producing a printed book compared to mass-copying a dvd, and the time it takes to read a book (many hours)compared to watching a DVD (2 hours) and therefore the number of times you could take advantage of the service in a month. This is a really interesting model that I am interested in learning more about in the coming months. Now, if you connect this service with an Ebook rental, for DVD rental prices (i.e. a few bucks), it could really make some tracks. Fascinating. By the way, I would come up with a different model than Itunes Video or on demand movie rentals where you only have 24 hours to watch the thing once you have started the movie - that really annoys me. I simply do not need added pressure. I have started and not finished several movies due to this restriction - seriously from the digital dark ages. (Rant is now complete)

Most importantly about these options is the unique approach they represent to compete with other media and ultimately vie for the dwindling consumer disposable time. It will be interesting to follow these programs to see how they evolve. Anyone out there see other interesting approaches to getting books into the hands of readers?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

ECPA Executive Summit

Well, I was away for the last two weeks in April having fun with my family, so I am behind on everything, including blogging. I am at the ECPA Executive Summit in Dallas and as always trying to absorb new knowledge from people smarter than me. I was fortunate to give a brief presentation about the ECPA Title Management Web program and best practices in Title Management from Acquision through launch, but unquestionably I have gained more than I have given.

There is one prevailing theme that keeps coming back at this conference, as well as at the Firebrand conference in April. Publishing, as both defense and offense against distraction,clutter and irrelevance in the consumer marketplace, should be about COLLABORATION, not strictly COMPETITION, amongst publishers. It takes enough critical mass in the marketplace, and resources to bring new delivery mechanisms online for published content.

Man, does this go against the grain of our American culture - we live to compete. But look at Safari Online, which is an online marketplace for technical books in digital format and is based on collaboration between several key competitors in that space, delivering content in the way that many consumers interested in that genre want it.

The Christian market is another area where collaboration is highly possible, and in fact is taking place through great organizations like the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.

We are honored to be working with this association and delivering a collaborative program into this community.