Saturday, May 07, 2011

eBook Channels: Something to Keep You Awake at Night?

Today’s digital challenges may be many and varied, but it is clear that we are now entering a race to secure channels and with them, potentially lock in their customers and lock out the competitors. This is no longer about whose repository is biggest as this is mere schoolyard bravado. It is about who can lock in the greatest number of customers and convert them into doing business with them and in doing so build brand awareness and trust on the backs of others. We have seen the move from ereader devices to ereader platforms as content aggregators care less on their specific models of devices and more about providing access to their content via many and if possible, every platform; ereader, tablet, smartphone, android apps, Apple apps, laptops, cloud computing etc. As the emphasis moves onto platforms we will lose some who foolishly built their offer around one access point and device and we will also see a shift from niche and traditional channels to those that offer mass adoption and eyeballs.

The world’s supermarkets are an obvious target offering trusted online shopping that no longer stops at the groceries. Their customers already see them as a ‘one stop shop’, so adding ebooks to their extensive range of offers is logical for all. If the dots are connected correctly, the supermarkets have the potential to sell more ebooks in a day than the traditional channels combined could achieve in months. We have seen these giants negate the local stores and ingest segments such as wine, newpapers, pharmacy, music, videos with ease. Books are no different on limited range and consignment but and ebooks are relatively simple.

So it is with interest that we read that Kobo has now broadened it's relationship with Walmart Canada and now enables customers to gain one-click, direct access from the Walmart site to Kobo's eBook library of ebooks, enewspapers and emagazines. Walmart already carries Kobo's eReader in-store and features it on and now links this seamlessly to Kobo’s content.

Given its origins It is to be expected that Kobo's eReader has become a top selling eReader for Walmart Canada. The challenge now is to promote the Kobo brand to the widest audience globally and secure and exploit channel relationships such as Walmart to achieve this.

This then begs the question about how the traditional book channel are to participate when these major retailers no longer have to carry any real inventory, investment, skilled staff and risk and merely make any etitle available on a virtual self service shelf? How do players such as Barnes and Noble exploit their brand outside of Barnes and Noble? How do publishers create a direct market in what is still potentially a mass market where their control like in music is reducing? Who decides the winners when carpet bombing inventory into the market no longer counts? Who controls the pricing when the smart retailers are involved?

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