Friday, January 25, 2013

Zero Degrees of Separation

A couple of days ago I read, with more than my usual interest, an article in Publishers Weekly about the Digital Book World conference. Publishers Weekly is THE American trade mag for librarians, booksellers, publishers, and agents. The reason for my unusual interest was that one of our ex-employees was a keynote speaker. For those of you who shopped here in the 90s, Michael Tamblyn was our magazine guy. He had long dreds and an even longer and insatiable curiosity. At the time, he was studying music at Waterloo and we all thought that he would become a famous composer. When it was time to make that decision, reality and perhaps an addiction to bookselling overcame him, and he was scooped by Indigo.

Michael is now chief content officer for Kobo. Kobo is now partnering with independent booksellers in the United States to provide them with a way to sell ebooks. The American Booksellers Association had an agreement with Google to do this but after charging independents an arm and a leg Google pulled its support after a year. Bad karma. This is a very smart move for Kobo. If you are unaware of Kobo’s history, it was started by Chapters/Indigo and then sold to a Japanese conglomerate.

So what Michael was talking about at the conference was the problem of discoverability in the digital world. Very hard to browse books on the Internet. Statistically, a large part of Internet book sales come from people browsing in real bookstores and then ordering  their books, usually in real time, after scanning a title on their cell phone in a real store. I call this espionage but people in the digital world call it discoverability. I think that Michael knows the value of independent bookstores. Let’s hope that everyone else does too!

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