Although Tim Coates has been an author and publisher in the U.K., he is best known as the former head of the Waterstone’s bookselling chain and now he is moving into another venture as the founder of Bilbary.com, a new Web site that will sell e-books from publishers the world over. Coates hopes to begin a public beta test in six to eight weeks with titles from both U.S. and U.K. publishers. At present, he expects 400,000 e-books to be available at launch from both academic and trade houses with three of the “Big Six” American trade publishers on board.
Coates is certainly aware of e-bookstore powerhouses Amazon and BN.com, but he believes the e-book market, particularly outside of America, is only in its infancy with room for new players. He is also positioning Bilbary to be publisher, customer, and library friendly. Publishers can set their own prices and change them whenever they want. Publishers can also sell or rent e-books by chapter and lend them out for a limited period. Coates sees the lending option as a particularly attractive option for expensive reference titles that publishers could lend at a reduced rate. To facilitate lending through libraries, Bilbary will let publishers set a “borrowing” price less than the sale price and include a time limit (Bilbary will set a 20-day limit as a default). Publishers will receive 80% of sales with Bilbary taking 20%. E-books will be made available in as many formats as possible. “We are device agnostic,” he told PW in a recent trip to New York to visit publishers. Bilbary will also supply publishers with regular sales reports and other market data about how their titles are performing.
Coates is working with Ingram’s Core Source in developing Bilbary and while at launch the site will focus on English-language titles he plans to add foreign-language e-books from publishers worldwide. No public domain titles will be sold, self-published titles will be limited and no free books will appear on the site. Bilbary will use e-book meta data to restrict sales to territories were e-books can be sold.
To help consumers find e-books, Bilbary will carry reviews from reputable sources as well as recommendations from booksellers, affiliated librarians, and teachers. The site will also include places for publishers to blog and to post promotional material. Readers will be able to suggest titles that they would like to read as e-books but can’t find on the site.
To gain consumer recognition for the site, Coates will launch a public relations campaign when the site launches that will feature a heavy dose of social media. Coates is also counting on authors and publishers to promote the site as a place to buy e-books.
Coates hopes that by offering flexible pricing and different lending and renting options, he can encourage people to buy e-books and not just borrow them.