Here’s a very interesting article from The Quill and Quire. The digital world is having a major impact on how businesses run. Every large retail corporation has their own website where you can order their products online without even bothering to come into the store. With the rise of the internet and its usefulness in consumerism, it’s no surprise that these Hachette, Simon and Schuster, and Penguin would unite and launch the e-commerce website, Bookish. Everything can be found and bought online, so if they’re expected to keep up with the times, it’s only natural for them to jump onto the digital bandwagon.
I’m pretty certain Amazon has played a big role in this. Each of these publishing juggernauts already have a website where you can buy their books. Why feel the need to unite and create a new website? To combat Amazon and get customers back by introducing new things that Amazon can’t offer, like connecting readers with books and authors. The merge between Penguin and Random House that is taking place this year is a result of feeling threatened by Amazon, so they certainly have proven to be the bane of the publishing world’s existence. Bookish offers something Amazon can’t: connection. Bookish is a place where you can buy books, connect with authors, and be encouraged to write reviews for books. Many websites provide one or other; you either have an Amazon who will sell you books, or a website like Goodreads, which will only allow you to review and discuss books. Bookish offers both, and by doing so it might just heat up the competition!
Business is all about convenience and efficiency, and I think technology will be a valuable asset to publishers. People have become extremely impatient thanks to the immediacy of the internet. They don’t want to wait for long, if at all. Not for 3 second page refreshers, not for dialup, and certainly not for their products. Having worked in retail I can fully attest to people’s impatience. Customers forget that even large chains like Chapters/Indigo, depending on their size, can only carry a few thousand books. My store, which is considered a medium sized one, retains about 48,000 books. There are millions of books, with many more being released every year. Stores only keep the most recent, and any book that is older than 5-10 years, unless it’s a classic, will probably not be available. I have been screamed at because certain books weren’t available, or were on order and haven’t arrived fast enough. Despite valiant efforts to order the book and get it shipped to the store, or their home as soon as possible, customers aren’t satisfied. They want their books, and they want them now.
Convenience is also important, and many businesses are aware of it. Publishers are realizing this too and can use technology to generate more sales by making their products more convenient and available online. I can’t count the times I’ve taken a call at the store, and a customer is asking me to order a book over the phone for them, which we can’t do because it violates our policy, which in turn pisses off the customer, and more yelling ensues. People don’t even want to leave their house anymore to go and buy their products! They can’t be bothered with all the hussle and bussle of the store, and the people. I have friends who will order all their products online just so they don’t have to go to the store and deal with other customers. All it takes is one quick click, some credit card info, and they can carry on with the rest of their day. People can order a new TV while brushing their teeth if they want to! It takes practically no effort or thinking at all when it comes to buying online. When I order from Kobo things can get deadly. I’ll see a book and won’t think twice about clicking the purchase button. My credit card info is already saved, so there’s no time for doubt while I’m filling out my information. I see something I want, I click a button, and I get it. Bookish is designed to be a “one-stop, comprehensive online destination.” People like one-stop destinations, and many are perfectly willing to open their wallets up to the internet for the sake of convenience. It’s a guaranteed money maker for the publishing industry. And it also gives a little something extra back to the people, talking about and reviewing their favourite titles. You can buy a book and connect with others about how awesome it is, on the very same website you purchased the book from, and in turn, that person will probably buy the book too, producing the good old ripple effect. Amazon doesn’t do that (yet), so it looks like Bookish is onto something.
Publishers can see a great increase in their sales if they adopt online shopping, especially with ebooks. With the exponential rise of technology, ereaders are becoming more common, and many people would like an electronic version of their favourite titles. The process of buying an ebook is simpler, and you immediately get your book, too. It’s instant gratification, and it’s what people want and have become used to. I don’t have to worry about extra shipping costs or waiting a week or two for my book if I order an ebook, because within seconds of purchasing it online it’s uploaded to my library/device. And the great thing for publishers is they’re non-returnable. Yes it’s true that print books make more money because they’re more expensive, but they also are at risk of being returned because they can be. Once you buy an ebook you own it forever, there’s no one to bring it back to if you don’t like it. Bookish is smart by offering both ebooks and physical books. Variety is important, and people still want physical copies of books, but electronic books can no longer be ignored.
In the past many publishing houses have gone under because of poor financing or simply not generating enough money. Many publishing houses might be saved now with the emergence technology and the ebook. If you release a physical and electronic copy of a book at the same time as the physical book you’re reaching a wider audience, and have the potential to make more money than you would by offering just one format. Those who aren’t willing to fork out the $30.00 for a hard copy, and in turn wait a year for the cheaper trade paperback version, may be perfectly willing to buy the electronic version for $15.00 instead. And there are even some people, like myself, who will be proud owners of both formats. Electronic books can only mean more money for publishers who are willing to appeal to that kind of market. Technology can provide a very bright future for publishing and even offer extended longevity of a company thanks to the emergence of digital reading. Things are only going to get better.