Focus on First Wave of E-book Marketing

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It’s less than two weeks since Google eBooks™ went live, but many booksellers are fully engaged in the first stage of their e-book marketing campaigns. Most started with website announcements, e-mail and e-newsletter blasts, and press releases aimed at local media. The Book Bin is offering loaner Sony Readers; Tattered Cover has highlighted four agency titles, while Kepler’s promoted non-agency books; and Gallery Bookshop & Bookwinkle’s Children’s Books hosted a digital petting zoo.

In addition to featuring the availability of Google eBooks on The Book Bin website, the Northbrook, Illinois, bookseller provides step-by-step instructions for customers on setting up e-books account. The bookstore will also lend Sony Readers to the digitally curious. “The deal is you buy the e-book from us, we’ll download it onto a reader, and you can use it,” said Book Bin manager Allison Mengarelli. “We will charge you the cost of the book(s) that we download at your request. We think they really are handy for traveling.”

Mengarelli is optimistic that the Book Bin’s many e-book advertising efforts will bear fruit. “Now we hope our customers realize there is a choice, and that it’s not just Amazon anymore,” she added.

To promote e-book sales in stores, some booksellers are using belly bands on display books, and they’re adapting Google eBooks bookmarks, available to stores with IndieCommerce user names and passwords in the Marketing Section of ABA’s new IndieCommerce.com site.

The Book Bin is using images of e-readers to capture customers’ attention. “We have a display case in the store wrapped in gold foil and have made a photo collage of different digital readers,” said Mengarelli. “There is a large sign announcing that we now sell e-books. We sent out an e-mail blast to announce the launch of our partnership with Google. And lastly, we have a bag stuffer for our customers.”

In addition, she said, “Our Bestseller Lists on our website are updated the first of each month, and our customers will be able to see all editions of the book with one click. It’s easy enough to look at the books on our Staff Recommendations page, and click through to see if there’s an e-book available.”

Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kansas, features the Google eBooks logo on its homepage, along with links to learn more about, and to search for, Google eBooks. Plans are also in the works for a how-to on Google eBooks as well as recommended titles to be e-mailed to customers. “It will be a constant feature in our weekly e-newsletter,” said Rainy Day’s Geoffrey Jennings. “After Christmas, we will feature e-book titles – maybe three hardcover and three e-books.”

When he picks e-books to highlight, Jennings said, “price won’t matter. I’ll pick books the way we always do. I’d put agency titles right next to non-agency books.” He is also promoting the availability of Google eBooks via his blog.

Now that indie booksellers are in the digital game, Jennings believes they will “organically start to capture” a slice of the market. To help ensure this happens, however, the store’s marketing efforts include stressing to customers how buying a Kindle limits their e-book purchasing options to Amazon.

For Denver’s Tattered Cover, “It’s all about the choice. And,” the store’s homepage proclaims, “now you can choose Tattered Cover for your e-book needs...” Featured are an introductory video from Google explaining the e-books buying process and titles from four agency publishers – Freedom (Jonathan Franzen, Macmillan); Just Kids (Patti Smith, HarperCollins); The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biographyof Cancer(Siddhartha Mukherjee, Scribner); and Life (Keith Richards, Little Brown).

The store plans to experiment with pricing on non-agency books,” said Tattered Cover’s Neil Strandberg, and he pointed to ABA’s “Tough Questions and Answers on Google eBooks Pricing” as a resource.

Strandberg added that, when store staff realized that the Google eBooks announcement was imminent, Tattered Cover prepared for e-mail blasts, tweets and Facebook updates. And, when Google eBooks launched, Tattered Cover sent a press release to local media. Marketing will continue in all of the store’s standard vehicles (newspaper ads, in-store, digital media, social media, etc.). Blog posts are coming soon.

This week, Kepler’s in Menlo Park, California, chose to offer aggressive discounts on five non-agency titles highlighted in a special promo e-mail blast from Sarah Langlais, Keplers.com manager. Featured titles included The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Stieg Larsson, Knopf) and Autobiography of Mark Twain (Mark Twain, University of California Press). “The holiday spirit is in full swing here at Keplers.com,” wrote Langlais, “and I’m feeling so festive I’ve decided to knock down the prices of some of our bestselling Google eBooks™ as an early present to all of you loyal customers out there!” The promotion ends December 16.

Some bookstores are hosting digital petting zoos to introduce e-book options. Gallery Bookshop & Bookwinkle’s Children’s Books in Mendocino, California, combined a petting zoo with a holiday party. “We had a computer set up and were showing customers how to buy e-books from our website,” said owner Christie Olson Day. “We also had preloaded books on an iPad, iPod Touch, Sony Reader, and laptop.”

Olson Day’s aim was to demonstrate to customers not only how to buy e-books, but also how e-books can serve the needs specific to their neighborhood. “We’re out in the boonies and don’t have reliable wireless. So we highlighted that you can read Google eBooks offline. That’s really important to people here.”

Olson Day said that customers “like the idea that we’re in the e-book game and they’re rooting for us, but not many are falling in love with reading digitally.” More evidence, she said, “that print and e-books have a long future coexisting together.”

However, she believes that during the flood of publicity surrounding the launch of Google eBooks one important message was lost or confused. “Customers have heard the fact that Google eBooks are good for the indies, but they’ve missed the fact that the need to buy them from us,” Olson Day said. “You’ve got to figure that for every one person who bothered to ask how this is good for us, there are still one hundred out there who don’t get it. So we’re publicizing that if they want to support their independent bookstore they need to buy their e-books from our site.”


IndieCommerce stores that have not returned the contract sent via e-mail in mid-November are encouraged to do so as soon as possible, so they can begin selling Google eBooks. Signed contracts can be faxed to (914) 591-2720, or they can be scanned and then be e-mailed to iccontract@bookweb.org. All stores must sign and return the contract and the ACH Authorization Letter no later than January 31, 2011.