Tools of Change: Hard lessons learned from selling children’s ebooks online
February 16, 2011 | 3:31 pm
By Paul Biba
Hillel Cooperman (A Story Before Bed), Megan Quinn (Charlesbridge), Sara Berliner (ScrollMotion), Lyle Underkoffler (Disney Publishing Worldwide)
Cooperman: so early with children’s books and learning so much that there are no real competitors. Nobody knows how to do this yet. Have a modest success but nobody here is ready to retire. When started out were fundamentally confused about how difficult it was for people to understand. Gave away coupon codes with 12 characters and nobody used them because entering that many characters was too much. Every feature I wanted to have and didn’t get to would probably not have worked in the end. You can start small and upgrade later as you see how the market develops. Taking customer support calls personally is the single best point of getting feedback about problems. It also results in extra sales. Big challenge is getting publishers to be comfortable to be with them. Need to do what the publisher wants. Sharing the books has been a huge boon in sales.
Quinn: indie publisher. They attack the marketplace through distribution market deals. Some of the content they licensed is to platforms that are no longer around. Need to be more assertive with licensors on the other end. Subscription model is being picked up by schools and libraries.
Berliner: skinnable platform solutions company. Most stuff that didn’t work is on the marketing side (did not have price control or a say in pricing with the publishers who wanted to price too high). Seen acceptance from consumers to paying for content. Experimentation is working because there is such a low barrier to entry. Freemium has seen a lot of success. In App Store it is easier to sell across several demographics. Big challenge has been to develop elegant solutions complex problems.
Underkoffler: run digital for Disney Publishing, so some stuff themselves and sometimes with outsiders. About a year ago lots of ads for subscription service that this went away. Based stuff on browser and then public wanted it on iPads and mobile stuff. Didn’t work because there was so much free stuff on line. So shifted from a subscription to a per unit purchase and make stuff available on all platforms. This is much popular. One of the problems with the browser based stuff was that it was based on Flash and then the iPad came out. The browser based stuff will probably move to libraries and schools. It is very important to “grease” the purchasing process because consumers will not do very much. Global demand for English products was surprisingly high. Don’t over-engineer, sometimes going simple works best. Lots of demand and sales success for backlist that is out of print. Biggest hurdle they had to face internally was cannibalization. In fact it has turned out just the opposite. Charge more for an enhanced ebook and consumers are willing to pay for it if the experience is worth it.