First: Billie Bloebaum, romance buyer for Powell’s airport store in Portland, is now the romance blogger for PowellsBooks.blog. WORD. She’s had a few blog entries in the past, but now she’s going to be talking about romance, ebooks, and all things romance genre.
In other news, did you know that you can buy ebooks from Powell’s? It’s true! Thanks to Darin, the “ebook guy” at Powell’s, I have some details – because, dude, I had NO IDEA.
There’s an ebook feature page and many of the books featured are discounted. According to Darin:
Our strongest categories have been professional reference/textbooks and romance. We’ve worked a lot with Mia Amato at Harlequin on Harlequin promos, but of course no one can touch Harlequin in terms of the technology and vision in terms of how best to market their stuff. But overall romance is very strong for us in ebooks. If you look at our Adobe page those bestsellers on the right are real time and we don’t futz with them, so that’s really what we’re selling (Adobe is by far our biggest format). Last week that top 5 had 4 romance titles in it, but school kicked in this week so they’ve been overtaken by textbooks.
Sarah: I’ve been hopping up and down for awhile now asking that brick and mortar stores allow digital book purchases in house because nothing can beat the experience of shopping in a bookstore and talking to the employees (Y’all are some knowledgeable people) and looking at the books – even if you want to read them digitally. Does Powell’s offer point of sale for digital books in the store?
Darin: We do not offer ebooks in the store, and don’t have any immediate plans to. It’s a neat idea, and I can imagine exactly how we’d work it into our existing ebook functionality – but at present we’re concentrating on just making the website experience more functional (for both print and ebooks).
However, we’ve been working very hard at bringing that handselling knowledge of our staff onto the website. Earlier this summer we created a tool that allows our actual ‘on the floor’ booksellers to upload their shelftalkers up to the books on the web, as a way to translate more of that real employee insight into the website. Also, our blog is very active with employee articles and regular columns, which is another way to try and get the wealth of knowledge you find in our stores onto the website – and by corollary also attached to ebooks.
Sarah: Why sell digital books via the Powell’s website? How long have you been doing this and dear heavens how did I miss it?!! (That last part was rhetorical)
Darin: Maybe I can answer both of those at once? We first sold titles for the Rocket eBook (in 1999) which later became the Gemstar eBook, which later poofed away. We sold them at the time because even then we felt ebooks had potential. And we had plenty of steady customers. Then we added Adobe & Microsoft around 2001, and shortly after that Palm. Ingramdigital is our distributor for all our ebooks – so the servers and files all actually live with them.
Our site redesign of a year or so ago took ebooks out of the top navigation, and moved the link to the left hand column (under ‘more at powell’s, below ‘rare and collectible). So perhaps that has contributed to you not finding them?
Also, we don’t dedicate a huge amount of time to promoting ebooks specifically as ‘ebooks’. We’re continually working on ways to have them more apparent as just another version of a book. Along with having print and audio, we also carry both new and used books. It gets to be pretty complicated trying to message all those things. Meaning, we could theoretically have a title that we offered in all of these ‘versions’ simultaneously:
new mass market
used mass market
new trade paper
used trade paper
new audio CD
used audio CD
used mp3 CD
new mp3 CD
adobe digital editions
So many! But for various reasons (price and personal taste) each has its appeal to somebody.
We have worked on a couple of promos specifically on ebooks with Harlequin, and one was central in our first Romance mailing (http://www.powells.com/section/romance) that we sent out last spring. But we haven’t really been able to position ourselves smack dab in the middle of the ebook (and specifically romance ebook) world. Mostly I think just because we haven’t been able to focus ‘all’ of our attention there.
Sarah: What are the things you’re focusing on with the new ebook store pages launching this week?
Darin: We just turned it on now: