The Bookseller’s FutureBook blog is carrying a post by e-book distributor OverDrive, touting the benefits of multi-channel distribution for e-books. Concentrating solely on e-book stores such as those for Kindle and Nook ignores readers who buy from other places or borrow from libraries, OverDrive notes.
In 2010, 718 million book and title catalog pages were viewed via OverDrive “virtual branch” library pages, but only 15 million digital titles were checked out, meaning that readers are viewing information about books through their libraries before making purchases elsewhere. But libraries are just a start. Adding titles to retail catalogs, eBook stores on devices, schools, and any other outlet can help promote your title and ultimately lead to a sale in the future. Furthermore, it is now clear that multi-channel online stores are actually helping brick-and-mortar stores, which is why it is so important to make the two sales channels complementary.
The post also points out that many tablets and e-readers can download books at bookstore and library locations as well, and that analysts predict more non-PC computing devices will be sold this year than PCs.
Certainly, there is potential for publishers to branch out and make sales in more places than just traditional e-bookstore settings. What if, for instance, library programs offered readers the chance to convert a checkout into a purchase if they decided they liked the e-book enough to want to keep it? What if some portion of the purchase price went to support the library as an agency fee?
This would make more sense than imposing artificial limits on how many times an e-book can be checked out. Perhaps HarperCollins and other publishers might consider a partnership of this nature rather than the adversarial stance of the last month or so. HarperCollins has described its position as “a work in progress”, so hopefully they can work something out.
Regardless, OverDrive definitely has a point that digital goods provide a lot more opportunities for distribution and partnerships than physical goods of old. E-books could be used as downloadable promotional items very easily—as indeed they were by Barnes & Noble last year, giving them out to get people to come into their stores. There are a lot of possibilities, and e-book marketing up to now have barely scratched the surface.