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ebook buyersChris has already covered the Digital Book World article summarizing recent Codex Group research showing that 86% of eBook buyers buy from only one retailer. But I had a few thoughts he didn’t cover.

The article posited that the ease of infrastructure was the number one reason people stayed with a particular retailer, and that made sense to me. Although I don’t currently own a Kindle device, I used to, and I’m pretty much “trained” to go back to Amazon, if for no other reason than it makes it easiest to keep track of what I’ve purchased. I’m usually good about adding books to Calibre, but I’m not 100%, and I have accidentally bought books twice, from different retailers.

So, the article got me to thinking. What would it take to get a reader to switch retailers or to shop around and buy from different ones?

Well, hardware is certainly an issue. If a reader owns a reading device from a particular store, and it will be difficult to load a book onto his device, he probably won’t buy anywhere else. This is the biggest impediment, I imagine, to getting Kindle owners to switch stores, and, of course, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a scenario where a non-iOS owner would ever buy from iBooks. So it makes sense that, in the U.S., the retailers with the more popular devices tend to have the greatest loyalty. (Okay, calling the Nook “one of the more popular devices” might be a stretch, but you get what I mean, right?)

The tech savvy part of me says no DRM is the answer, and Chris also covered that in his article. But I don’t think it really is. I wonder how many readers of eBooks have even heard of Calibre and would know to format switch even if all books were DRM free. So, it’s an answer, but I don’t think it’s the answer.

Price? Well, maybe, but again, you have the issue of device restrictions. Tablet users who are comfortable with managing multiple reading apps can certainly shop based on price, but again, how many really do? I’m firmly in the tablet camp, so I can shop from Nook and Kobo, but mostly I don’t because, again, Amazon’s site has made it so easy for me, and the other sites are just not as user-friendly.

Which leaves me floundering for a good answer. Convenience is huge. I personally rarely price shop, even though I can. It’s just easier to buy from Amazon, even though I’m quite capable of buying from anywhere. Oh, and their gift card system is an incentive as well. It’s just easy, and way better than B&N’s, unless they’ve changed it recently. I prefer to buy with gift cards to avoid tiny charges on my credit card.

By the way, the Digital Book World article didn’t come up with much better solutions either. Here was their answer:

For the small retailers, the picture is fairly bleak. It’s clear, though, that they need to think of ways to keep their small customer bases more loyal, perhaps through better sales and marketing of dedicated e-reading devices or promotions that reward loyalty.

Loyalty promotions might work, depending on what they looked like. As long as agency pricing is out, they are technically feasible, but again, they would have to be really good to make me switch.

I’m open to suggestions here. I really thought, when I started this article, that I’d come up with an answer, and I’m disappointed that I couldn’t. I’m not blindly loyal to Amazon. There has to be something that would make me switch, but maybe I have too big a blind spot, and I’m missing it.

 
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