Today's Retail Scene: Are You Prepared to Compete?
The emergence of Amazon’s and Sony’s e-readers, along with a host of new digital product options, makes the ability to offer a variety of consumer-tailored digital products that much more important. “The book is going to have to evolve as it goes into this digital platform. It’s not just going to be a flat book anymore. There are going to end up being widgets and video … [as well as] selling in pieces and chunks, especially through the library channel,” Bohr says.
Publishers must catch up to the reality of digital platforms or risk being left behind—as the music industry was—by a failure to loosen hold of their gatekeeping role, she cautions.
The winner in the emerging distribution game will be those entities who, in Donohue’s words, “own the customer”—those who control trusted, easy-to-use sources of content.
Many believe Amazon’s $9.99 e-book pricing strategy (with Amazon taking a loss on many titles in order to sell them at this price point) is driven by this concept.
“Clearly, Sony and Amazon are trying to make a market, trying to get people to buy their devices,” Bohr says, “and the incentive is the lower-priced book.”
“They see [customer loyalty] as their future,” Donohue says of distribution and retail partners.
He notes Amazon’s customer-friendly shopping experience as another key to Amazon’s success. “So for us in S&T Books group, we are focused on providing that experience for our Focal Press customers, because these are people who buy a lot of books from us, they know us, it’s a community of people, they follow us on YouTube, Facebook—and so for us, that’s the area we are going to focus on to provide a direct experience for our customers,” Donohue says.
Elsevier will leverage social media as it attempts to create an online marketplace for its products to rival Amazon. Donohue says e-products will be part of a range of products offered through a new multimedia portal, the Focal Online Resource Center (FORCE), which is slated for launch on the Focal Press Web site by the end of this year. “People in animation and the media-tech area will be able to buy a variety of things through our Web site, and we will really be built to serve that community,” he says. “We’ll see how that goes, and then we’ll look at the physics market, the chemistry market. But that’s where our real experiment in terms of distributing a totality of our product is structured for right now.”