Ever since Winter Institute, there has been much buzz about a possible partnership between ABA and Google. Tuesday the two made it official at a session on Google Editions during the ABA Day of Education with ABA COO Len Vlahos and Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships for Google. Both groups will partner on digital books starting with the official launch of Google Editions this summer.
“Think of us as Ingram. We’re wholesaling that digital book and providing that book to you,” explained Turvey, who anticipates having 400,000 books—trade, STM, and professional—at the launch. The books will be compatible with all e-readers except for Amazon’s Kindle and can be read offline using Google Gear, which allows for caching in the browser. Currently ABA offers e-books on the IndieBound.com Web site through Ingram and will continue to do so. The Google arrangement is not exclusive.
Google will not be selling print titles, but its system will support print books bundled with the digital edition. Further down the line, Google and ABA will allow bookstores to geo-affiliate so that bookstores will share in the sale when a customer downloads a Google digital book in the store. “Strategically, I think that puts you in the mix,” said Turvey.
Although some booksellers, like Powell’s, have long been using Google’s book search capabilities, ABA’s IndieBound will offer it as well. Vlahos announced the site will soon offer a more seamless shopping experience across formats thanks to the ABA board’s recent decision to substantially upgrade the site.
Other educational sessions at the show expanded on ones at Winter Institute, including a book-buying survey promised by Jack McKeown, director of Verso Digital Advertising and co-owner of Books & Books Westhampton, which opens in July. The survey, which was completed at the end of April, bears out much of Verso Digital’s two earlier consumer surveys about 62 million avid book buyers. The new survey explored what McKeown called the mindshare-marketshare problem, the number of people who say that they prefer buying at independents and the percentage of people who actually do. McKeown identified three key factors that keep people from shopping in indies: discounted bestsellers, better selection, and proximity to home and work. The survey also looked at customers who browse independents then shop online or at chains. That translates into $260 million annually of lost revenue, said McKeown. The complete results are available at www.versoadvertising.com/beasurvey/.
At a reprise of a Winter Institute panel on alternative business models, The New Reality, a trio of panelists who have Espresso Book Machines spoke about a variety of initiatives. Carole Horne, general manager of Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass., said that the store’s green delivery system was really part of a three-pronged approach that includes the book machine. Currently the store is subsidizing the bicycle delivery service so that customers pay a flat rate. The response to date has been underwhelming, said Horne. She anticipates that it will grow significantly when the third prong, a revamped Web site, is up and running and more customers begin shopping online.
At Northshire Books in Manchester Center, Vt., general manager Chris Morrow is looking for ways to innovate through consignment. Initially he began with baby clothes produced by local company Zunato and dedicated 250 sq. ft. in the children’s section just to them. Since then he’s added books from local publisher Chelsea Green, and is considering several other consignment options. “As long as it’s complementary and synergistic, I’ll keep doing that. We need to find ways to support our core business,” he said.
Chuck Robinson, co-owner of Village Books in Bellingham, Wash., has found a way to turn his marketing budget into a profit center. Instead of spending 2% like most stores, with the help of the store’s quarterly 56-page Chuckanut Magazine, it now pays -1%.