Ingram is betting on a future where authors and publishers are selling e-books directly to consumers via their websites and blogs. The intention is to bypass retailers altogether so everyone can get a larger piece of the pie.
The Ingram Content Group has just purchased a company called Aer.io. This company began as a developer of “native commerce” programs that gave publishers and other interested parties the ability to embed links with buy buttons in their tweets and Facebook posts. The company then expanded with Store Maker, a platform that offers the ability to set up a complete online storefront. Aer.io Flyer was another addition–a marketing tool that allows publishers to promote titles to their customers and then close the sale via their own storefront.
Today virtually all publishers, from the smallest indie press to large general trade book publishers—with the very interesting exception of the Hachette Book Group—sell directly to consumers in some fashion. But while most publishers offer some form of direct sales to consumers, the big houses prefer to avoid competition with retailers. Indeed, in a time when physical retailers are under intense competition from Amazon and other online outlets, many publishers remain leery of even appearing to undermine booksellers.
Dominique Raccah, CEO of Sourcebooks told Good e-Reader that “I believe that we should not be competing with our retail partners, that we need to be providing to consumers a different thing than we’re providing through retailers. In a way, if you look at the fashion industry, that’s kind of what they did. When they started selling directly to consumers and opening their own stores, they were selling different things than you would buy when you went into Macy’s. The holdup [for Sourcebooks] was figuring out what was the different thing that we were going to offer to consumers that was not going to sell on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and also to you.”
Publishers selling directly to readers really hasn’t worked out that well, but that’s OK. I think publishers need to create their own online retail presence, but they have to understand that they cannot reshape the marketplace. Publishers are selling direct because they want to be ready if it becomes a bigger part of the industry.