A one day seminar was recently held in Sydney about the impact of digitalisation on traditional bookshops. Len Vlahos, keynote speaker and Chief Operating Officer of the American Booksellers Association, discussed the role and opportunities there are for traditional retailers in the new digital market.
He advised traditional booksellers did not want to go the way the music industry did while Napster was in operation. Napster, formerly a free music download website, operated from 2003-2008 before being sued by the music industry and closed down. During Napster’s five year reign, over 2,700 record stores across the USA went out of business.
Fortunately most e-books cannot be burned into a CD and Digital Rights Management (DRM) also curbs piracy via encryption like DVD/video encryption. DRM wrapping is part of the metadata or format used to make an e-book. Other metadata include files such as Adobe PDF, E-Pub and Bleo.
Adobe PDF was invented before e-books. It captures the printed page and can be utilised to format e-books containing mainly text. E-pub, a more recent format, is the standard and is designed for e-book text and some illustrations. It wraps or fits various e-reader screen sizes. The new Bleo files are suitable for heavily illustrated e-books such as children’s picture books and highly illustrated books; e.g. some cookbooks and medical textbooks. There are other formats around, however only these were discussed.
Vlahos then examined strategies available to American bookshops to adjust to the digital age.
Brett Osmond, Random House (RH) Australia, gave a digital marketing perspective. RH no longer has author Facebook pages (unless authors post them), as these pages were not being updated regularly and quickly became dated. While the RH website does not sell books, it directs customers to retailers and has widgets or tools for customers to trial books. RH authors can take these widgets and post them on their own sites.
Filming authors is another marketing tool; authors may participate in question and answer segments and announce book trailers. A sign-up wall encourages customers to be part of the RH community, however an email address must be provided to access competitions. This is how RH distributes newsletters, keeps customers informed and studies trends. It certainly appears RH is ready for the digital reader!
Other speakers also presented relevant issues including Mark Tanner, Google Australia, who outlined Google’s projected e-book entry into Australia later this year. Overall, the seminar was highly informative and professionally co-ordinated. Well done, ABA!