Today's Retail Scene: Are You Prepared to Compete?
As a result, the S&T Books division finds itself working closely with vendors like Vital Source and Ingram to facilitate a sophisticated print and electronic distribution operation, while looking to create its own e-sales channel. Donohue also hopes other vendors will catch up in terms of offering integrated distribution services, thereby bringing more competition to the market.
On the other hand, Elsevier is not merely ceding this corner of its electronic distribution network to others. “It’s no secret to either Ingram or Amazon that we are also looking to develop our own direct sales channel for e-product. By the end of the year, you will be able to purchase any [science and technology] e-book through Elsevier Direct, which is our e-commerce platform,” says Donohue.
The Realities of a Digital Marketplace
Key to a successful multichannel strategy is the integration of print, which becomes more complicated (yet ideally more efficient) as POD and short-run options expand.
“Right now, our jobs are probably harder, because we are trying to grapple with all of the e-distribution issues, while, at the same time, we have all the old issues with print distribution,” Bohr says. “Both will be around for a long time.”
For most publishers, print still comprises the vast majority of unit sales, but e-distribution’s ample new challenges demand ongoing experimentation and attention. “Everybody is in the discussion phase and the try-it-out phase of how [e-books] should be priced,” notes Bohr. “Should they be priced lower because you don’t have the print cost? Does that diminish the value of the intellectual property?”
Publishers do not control prices, Bohr notes, a fact highlighted recently by Amazon’s $9.99 offering of frontlist books for the Kindle and recalling for some the explosive impact of iTunes on its way to dominance in the digital music sphere.