Blaming a combination of deep pocketed competitors such as Amazon, Apple and B&N as well as the lingering impact of the abrupt switch to the agency model in 2010, Bob LiVolsi, owner of the indie e-book retail site BooksonBoard.com, has halted the sale of e-books at the site and is looking to recapitalize in an effort to stay in business. While he is looking for new investors, Livolsi acknowledged that Books on Board was facing a serious financial crisis and said customer accounts remain open and he encouraged Books on Board customers to immediately download any books they have already purchased.
LiVolsi, who launched BooksonBoard.com in 2006 partly in reaction to the B&N’s withdrawal from the e-books market in the early 2000s, said he simply could no longer compete with competitors like Amazon, Apple, B&N and Kobo. “We can’t compete head on with them,” he told PW in a late night phone interview, “we run a skinny, lean operation here but I don’t have the deep pockets to compete with these companies.”
Livolsi has been critical of how the switch to the agency pricing model was implemented from the beginning and voiced complaints that it was organized strictly to benefit the big retail players and “devastated,” independent e-book sellers. He pointed to the lingering impact of the switch to agency pricing in 2010, a switch he said severely impacted indie e-book retailers because it removed Big Six titles—the switch was sudden and included major changes in metadata and delivery that severely affected e-book distributors—from his inventory. Indeed LiVolsi said he lost access to thousands of titles, some for more than a year, because of the Agency Model switch, and in the process he said, “we lost 70% of our customers.”
LiVolsi said Books on Board was “collateral damage in the publishers' war against Amazon,” and said, “it has taken us a year to get back some of the agency titles. This is something that only affected indie retailers.” Although Agency Pricing has been cited by publishers as way to help indie e-book retailers, LiVolsi called it “a misguided move.” Indeed LiVolsi said at the time of the agency model switch, Books on Board was the #3 e-book retailer behind Amazon and B&N and ahead of Kobo. After losing thousands of titles from his catalog due to the switch, he said, “we had a very broad selection of fiction and nonfiction titles and we lost them all. I was left with mostly romance titles. I lost customers over the next year and never really got them back. We basically have had to start over. Publishers just didn’t think about how this would affect distribution,” he said.
While he said he has halted e-book sales through the site, he also said that he is looking for investors and hopes to recapitalize the business and find a “niche” in the e-book market that he can sell to. Nevertheless, LiVolsi acknowledged that he was encouraging his customers to download any books they have purchased, immediately. He praised his distribution partners, Ingram, OverDrive and BlueFire, who were keeping his supply available for customers, “they’re trying to look out for the readers.”
“Anyone who knows me knows I don’t give up and I fought like hell to make this work. My suppliers have supported me, but I can’t expose them and my creditors to any more risk.”