Although Dennis Abboud has not been directly involved with Levy Home Entertainment for more than a decade, the new owner of the book distributor said he kept a close eye on the company. “Levy has always been very well run. It’s very sound operationally,” he told PW. Abboud plans to build on that base by moving in several new directions that are tied to two of the most important trends sweeping the book industry—e-books and e-commerce.
To take advantage of the increase in online book sales, Abboud said he will move Levy—which is in the process of being rebranded Readerlink Distribution Services—into the direct-to-consumer fulfillment business. “Levy has never played in direct-to-consumer, but I have a strong background there,” Abboud said. His objective is to use the Levy infrastructure to fulfill titles bought through the online arms of Levy’s retail customers, which include Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, and BJ’s. In addition, recognizing that the mass merchants have little reason to invest in creating their own stand-alone e-bookstores, Abboud said Levy will develop an e-book platform that can be used both by Levy to distribute e-books to its retail customers and also by the retailers to sell digital titles to their customers. Abboud and his team will be evaluating the best way to develop a platform over the next several months, and he hopes to be able to go live with a system by the fourth quarter of 2012. Since almost all mass merchants now sell some type of e-reading device, Abboud is confident they will be interested in selling e-books as well. “When they sell an e-reader now, they are effectively ceding their customers to competitors,” Abboud observed.
Helping mass merchants move into e-books is one way of ensuring that the retailers will continue to stay in the bookselling business. As other Levy executives have done, Abboud talked about the parallels between the music and video industries and the book business, noting that as record and video stores closed, mass merchants became more important to the sale of the physical products in those mediums. The same thing, Abboud believes, is likely to occur in the book business.
While the direct-to-consumer and e-book platform projects are under development, Abboud’s third major initiative will be rolled out soon. Levy is in discussions with a number of overseas publishers about using the company’s distribution system to market their titles directly to Levy’s customers. Levy will offer publishers a cafeteria plan of having Levy sell and fulfill titles to retailers or just handle the fulfillment part. “It’s all part of our strategy to be the link between publishers and their customers,” Abboud said.