Future Think: BookBub
Given the exponential proliferation of free and cheap digital content in the marketplace — to say nothing of the platforms upon which one can consume that content — it's never much of a challenge to find something to read. But finding something you want to read at a great price? Therein lies the rub.
Enter BookBub, a Cambridge-based email recommendation engine that delivers daily ebook deals, for titles across a wide range of platforms, to its million-plus members based on their tastes and interests.
"Historically, publishing houses have marketed directly to bookstores, and bookstores have then marketed to consumers," says Josh Schanker, president and founder of BookBub. "With ebooks, now that every book is available everywhere at any time on any device, it's no longer about getting the retailers to carry you, for a publisher, it's about creating awareness about your books, getting your books discovered directly, marketing directly to the consumer."
While discoverability is a problem publishers are trying to untangle, Schanker sees it as an issue for readers as well. "Sadly, as a lot of independent bricks and mortar stores are closing down, there are fewer opportunities for a reader to discover books," says Schanker. "We've found that one of the main reasons that readers sign up for our service is because they were looking for someone to curate for them and help them discover books."
Which is to say that BookBub has an editorial component; it's selective about the books it price-promotes to its members. "We are a screening mechanism," says Schanker. "We will only promote acclaimed e-books. We see BookBub not only as a way to save money, but to get limited-time discounts on acclaimed books."
When readers sign up, they select preferences for genre and platforms. Interestingly, Schanker estimates that more than half purchase on multiple platforms, and more than half don't purchase from Amazon at all.
BookBub works with big publishers, as well as with indie publishers and individual authors. With big houses, "they'll contact us and let us know their price promotions for the next month, then we tell them which would work best with our audience," says Schanker. "Then we go back and forth on a plan." Smaller publishers and authors tend to work with BookBub on a per-promotion basis.
Schanker, who's got a background in digital media entrepreneurship but started his career as a bookseller for Walden Books, sees BookBub's daily emails as falling in that fuzzy area where advertising and editorial, content marketing and merchandising all meet.
BookBub is presently experimenting with providing analytics to its publisher partners, tracking things like member click-throughs, how many additional reader reviews books received, and how many other books in the same series as a promoted title were sold.
"Our goal is to put together the best possible daily email," says Schanker. "We think of ourselves as advertorial. That's fundamentally what it is. It isn't an e-saver type of thing. They're listings for books that are paid promotions from publishing houses, but we curate which of those listings we accept. We turn down more than half of the ones submitted to us every day. We could have a lot more business if we wanted to lower our standards."
For more on working with BookBub, visit bookbub.com/advertise.