2011 – The year of the Indie Bookstores

Many of my friends will derive from the title of this post that I am still under books_logothe influence of New Year’s libations. With the demise of Border’s and the rise of eBooks, it would seem that Indie Bookstores are in further jeopardy.

But several factors are giving Indie Bookstores who will take advantage of new offerings and changes a huge competitive advantage.

These factors are:

  • Google Books/Editions;
  • Amazon’s recent feature mimicry;
  • iPads and eReaders;

Google Books, formerly Google Editions, Google’s recently announced foray into selling books, would seem to be a “me too” event. Given the issues that Google ran into with authors and publisher rights with their “copy and provide everything” Google Books strategy, they would seem to be just bulling their way in.

But insightfully, Google eBooks allows for Indie Bookstores to resell these eBooks and make a referral fee from this referral. It also allows the stores to sell a print-and-ebook bundle. This is different in many ways that the Amazon Associates referral program, in that the Google eBooks store becomes the Indie Stores “eBook store”. Bundles with print and eBooks purchased from the same store at a discount are one example of features targetted for Indie Bookstores.

Indie bookstores such as BookPeople in Austin, Books, Inc. in California and The Twig in San Antonio are climbing on the Google train. For example, now on the Twig website:

Check out The Twig website for your e-books that can be read on any device except Kindle, which has a proprietary system. Provided through Google Editions, now called Google eBookstore, Google launched this “cloud-based site” on Monday, Dec. 6th. Google Books product manager Abraham Murray said that the service begins with three million titles, “hundreds of thousands” of which are for sale, and emphasized that e-titles are available from the Google eBookstore as well as “from one of our independent bookseller partners…” This means The Twig Book Shop!

In an article on Google eBooks at Publisher’s Weekly, Michael Tucker of Books, Inc. said “that the program puts indies “on a level playing field” with Amazon and Apple.

Amazon, still a leader in innovation in many facets, has been playing catch up in many circumstances. They announceda “me too” book sharing offering, a catch up to the Barnes & Noble Nook’s ability to share books.

Amazon is obviously watching Google eBooks. They announced a web reader version of Kindle reader which can be embedded into any website, including store fronts of Indie Bookstore websites. There is little doubt that Amazon will followGoogle’s lead in targeting Indie stores.

With the proliferation of iPads and targetted eReaders (who actually did not get one as a gift?) plus the increase in available titles and number of readers comfortable with reading on smartphones, eBooks have gone from an afterthought to a large revenue stream.

What better place to host a book club or reading group that is exclusively based on eReaders, or invites a mix, that an Indie Bookstore that sells and support both print and eBooks? eBook only reading groups have the added advantage of digital sharing; any notes and highlights they make will eventually be shareable, providing interactivity before, during and after book club meetings. While the Google Reader software is still in its first release,we can expect features such as notes and highlighting that are available intheAmazon Kindle software versions to be made available. All of the major readers (Amazon, Google, B&N) have adopted the strategy of making their reader software available on multiple platforms (iPhone/iPad, Android, PC, Mac, BB).

Google’s “go local” strategy will push the other eBook giants into providing more and more features targetted at Indie Bookstores. As someone who enjoys the uniqueness of places like The Twig in San Antonio, Books Inc. on the West Coast, Katy Budget Books in Katy TX and BookPeople in Austin, I wish them luck in taking advantage of these new possibilities.

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