Livrada is hoping to create a niche for itself in a market that until now has been largely ignored: e-book gift cards. Its goal—to make e-book giving a more personal and streamlined experience—makes sense considering that gift card spending exceeded $100 billion in 2011 and, according to a Bowker PubTrack consumer survey, 14% of books are given as gifts annually.
“Traditionally, people discover books when they’re out and about in the world,” said Leonard Chen, the company’s cofounder, discussing why a tangible way to browse, discover, and purchase e-books is more appealing to customers than the digital lists and recommendation engines that are found online. “For publishers, it’s about being in people’s paths,” he said.
Livrada formed early this year in Southern California and is working with five titles from Random House and one with HarperCollins to launch the concept; in the test, the e-book gift cards are being carried in 1,500 of the 1,700 Target stores. A Livrada e-book gift card works the same way as any other gift card: the physical card for a specific title is purchased, and the gift card receiver enters a code on the card on Livrada’s Web site. The customer is then redirected to the selected platform’s delivery channel—whether it’s Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or others (Livrada is in talks with more e-reader platforms). Finally, the e-book is delivered wirelessly to the customer’s e-reader via the respective platform’s process.
Livrada works with publishers, who pay an upfront flat fee, and then takes a commission on the back end. The cards are sold for the digital list price. Chen said that a typical Livrada title is “one that could be carried anywhere, including stores that don’t carry other books.” Currently, Livrada has six titles, including Fifty Shades of Grey, State of Wonder, and Gone Girl. Typically, Chen said, there’s a two-to-three–month turnaround from signing the contract with a publisher to getting cards into stores.
Chen is talking to a number of different publishers about getting involved with Livrada and hopes to have 50 to 100 titles available as e-book gift cards within the next six to 12 months from about a dozen publishers. The company is also in talks with a number of retailers, including airport stores, big box retailers, office supply stores, and electronic stores, and hopes to have 4,000 to 5,000 outlets carrying the cards by next fall. Estimating that the 2013 e-book gift card market could be $378 million, Chen is confident in the potential of his product: “If we get it right, we can expand the footprint of bookselling.”