15 July 2012

Selling Ebooks in Retail Stores

For the last 20 months we have been developing our Enthrill Books retail system, to bring ebooks to retail. In that time we have generated a few technologies, sold one of our patents and launched our product.

The system includes an online deployment system, manufacturing (printing, QA and testing), logistics (warehousing & shipping) and customer service. In the development of this we were able to create an answer for cross-platform DRM and cross-platform deployment of digital assets, consumers of mass retail stores will demand this.

We were not the first to sell ebooks in bookstores, Symtio did this in 2008-2010 and from the publishers that I spoke with, it worked pretty good considering that the market was just lightly peppered with reading devices. They sold the company just as the iPad, and the ebook phenomenon broke open in the spring of 2010. From what I can tell, their focus was primarily religious book stores in the Central US market. Great idea, great execution but too small of a market and far too soon.

When we looked at this idea of selling ebook gift cards in stores, we knew it had to be built on volume and as such we needed some big volume stores on side to build the program overall. We have the support of some of the best retail companies in the business with stores in the US and Canada. In addition to a market more readily saturated with reading devices, there is a growing need for ebook gifting, so our timing is perfect. We have approached our program with a long term vision, creating a new sales eco-system for publishers and retailers.

We launched in June and have a great deal of data to pour through and analyze, some success stories, some not so much - but that was to be expected. Our retail audits and research has helped to identify areas of opportunity and best practices as we roll out to more and more stores. I look forward to presenting these findings to our partners over the next few weeks and months.

One of the joys of bringing this program to retail has been the fact that we've been able to include independent bookstores as part of our consumer offering. In addition to selling ebook gift cards in store, independent bookstores are now able to participate in digital sales online through our POIT (Point Of Interest Tracking) system. In fact, all retailers that sell our products can earn money from online sales that were initiated at their store. When we announced our program in May of 2011, bookstore owners actually hugged me, how cool is that? We created a way of rewarding stores for sales initiated through merchandising our product!

Through the POIT system, we can associate the physical store with the consumer, so that when they make a purchase online through the connection that was made, that particular bookseller gets credit for the online sale. This of course has application beyond books and will no doubt be huge. We sold the patent on this cool feature to fund our development, but have license to use it in the ebooks category. The creation and development of this patent came from a need to not compete with the stores we are partnering with - our goal is to ensure that every sale made through our system is credited to a specific retailer.

And, we know we're onto something, because there's a company launching today in retail stores in the US, doing something similar on the ebook gift card front. It will be interesting to see how their launch goes. This means we now have a competitor; we were very happy to learn this. Not only does it validate our assumptions on a market for what we are doing, but it means there are two of us growing this new category within stores and with consumers. This is no small feat.

We've put together a great (understatement) team of pros to take us to the next level and are looking forward to the next phase in our journey as we expand across Canada and into the US.

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