Why Have US Trade Pubs Largely Balked at D2C E-bookselling?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Today’s feature story describes the growing popularity of direct-to-consumer e-bookselling in Scandinavia. It’s a practice that is far more profitable than working through retailers, as is customary in the United States, but one that comes with its own headaches. Among them is discoverability. US publishers — save for a few strong brands — remain faceless entities to most readers, who could care less who published a book. They leave the marketing to others, who are in this case either big retailers or technology companies with e-book units. They go direct to consumer.

If you visit Random House’s web site and want to buy a copy of Toni Morrison’s new novel Home, you cannot buy the e-book directly from the company (or if you can, it’s certainly not intuitive), but the firm does offer you 16 e-book retailers from which to choose. HarperCollins’s site — while a pain to navigate and even slower to load — offers me two dozen bricks-and-mortar stores and the iBookstore. Hmmmm…

So what is the problem? Is there a fear of disintermediating the existing retailers by going direct? Maybe, but that seems like a moot point in the face of the fierce competition out there. Is it a general lack of a standardized file format for e-books and the proprietary silos (real or imagined) that various retailers have set up? What’s the trouble?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.