Joe wikert

Crazy idea, right? And by ‘we’ I mean, ‘publishers.’ Big Six. Little guys. Everyone in between. What if we all got together and created an ebookstore? Assuming the DoJ wouldnt rule it out as another misguided case of collusion, I think this would be a terrific idea.

The thinking here was partially inspired by this interesting post from Valoboxs Oli Brooks. Oli talks about creating an API where customer purchase data is shared. The goal is for someone to buy once, read anywhere. I love the concept but I question whether a retailer like Amazon would ever support it by exposing their customer purchase information. Ha! Thats a funny one. OK, I dont just question it…I know Amazon would never support this.

But what if publishers launched their own uber-ebookstore and owned it outright? We could all switch over to the agency distribution model, receive 70% of sales and the remaining 30% would cover all the infrastructure costs to run the business. Using the agency model means we could also limit the impact any deep-pocketed retailers would have on selling everything at a loss with an eye on killing the competition.

Retailers are becoming publishers. And in the print days it would have been ridiculous to suggest publishers could join forces and create a 1,000+ outlet chain to compete with the superstores. Thats not the case in the online retailing world though. Were just talking about one central website.

Now lets make things interesting. Lets force Amazon and the others to keep using DRM while we abandon it for our own store. Can we do that? Maybe not. If we all agree to a DRM-free approach in our own store how could Amazon refuse to do the same with theirs? And when they do, the ‘stick’ that Charlie Stross says Amazon is beating us with goes away. Meanwhile, if we can go DRM-free in our store while other retailers insist on keeping DRM, lets take advantage of tools like Amazons Send to Kindle so our customers can quickly and easily sideload their purchases on their Amazon device.

Yes, its silly of me to think we could get all the publishers to buy into this. And then theres the need to go DRM-free; good luck getting everyone on board with that too. But boy, wouldnt it be fun to see this happen? It could really alter the ebookstore landscape.

P.S. — Our uber-ebookstore could start with a foundation like Goodreads. Its a great review and recommendation service but its not an ebook retailer. As a result, I never use it for title discovery since I dont want to get sent to another site for my ultimate purchase. I wonder if we could convince Otis Chandler to convert his business into this vision…

(Via Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog.)


  1. ” What if we all got together and created an ebookstore?”

    Given the cartel’s track record on dealing with consumers? Generations of business students would thank you for providing them with a perfect case study of mismanagement and failure.

  2. I have no idea how know this project is outside Germany, but here publishers and independent booksellers have tried something similar. Might be that they lacked a publisher like O’Reilly for technical knowledge or a understanding of what their costumers want, but well, that project (Libreka!) didn’t work out well.
    But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t work if the implementation was more focused on customers and their needs.

  3. While it is good to see original and innovative thinking from Joe … I think this is like suggestion an Everest climb before you ever get up on a chair to change a light bulb.

    We have had a year or more of Amazon-hating poured all over the web and media. I won’t rehash it here. But what standsout from all of the whinging is the total lack of competition for Amazon from the legacy publishing world.

    I have written here many times about my belief that groups of publishers, not just legacy ones, but also Indies, should be forming Joint Ventures to establish online eBook platforms. The cost of establishing such platforms is relatively low, especially for the larger businesses.

    Readers don’t want to have to visit 6 to 7 or more different platforms to buy their titles. But they will visit a handful imho.

    Right now most eBook readers stick with Amazon, or B&N out of either ignorance or laziness or DRM restrictions. But if ten Indie publishers got together to form a central Indie site where each Indie Publisher would sell their own titles, then readers would be delighted ! Even more so if they were DRM free. No more wading through a dozen different sites looking for specialist titles.

    The same for the majors. There is no competition issue in a Joint Venture unless it becomes a monopoly.

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