Monday, March 26, 2007

Borders' Focus Turns Online

Last Thursday The Wall Street Journal reported that Borders, the #2 book retailer, announced its plans to reopen its own online store in 2008, ending its current alliance with Amazon.com. At the same time Borders is stopping its efforts to expand internationally, and will close almost half of the Waldenbooks outlets it owns in the U.S.

The reason? Online sales of books are rising, capturing a growing share of the book market. Figures from Bowker put online sales of books in 1998 at a mere 2%. In 2006 that number grew to 13%, while sales at traditional retail stores fell from 42% to 38% in the same timeframe. Volume of dollars spent for books online rose from just under $1.5 million in 2000 to around $2.7 million in 2006.

Borders first teamed up with amazon.com in 2001, shortly after the dot-com bust. The company put its dollars into expanding stores, increasing the number of U.S. superstores from 290 at the beginning of 2000 to a current 499. As business trends changed, doing exactly opposite of what Borders expected, the company was hit hard. Ergo the company’s decision to put its expansion dollars into online selling.

Meanwhile Borders’ main competitor, Barnes and Noble, has operated its own online web site for some time. But it’s had a difficult time competing with Amazon.com due to the latter company’s discount rates. Amazon is able to sell books at a cheaper price because it sells so many other items as well. Ditto with cheaper book prices from such places as Sam’s and Costco. Barnes and Noble’s fiscal year ending February 3 showed its online sales fell 1.1%. In recent years its online sales have been flat—at about 10% of total revenue.

The bottom line for authors—don’t forget marketing efforts at online stores. Frankly, I had. I’d done a couple posts on Amazon.com when its whole author blog thing began, but hadn’t put up anything new in a year. This article prompted me to write a new post for Amazon.com and to promise myself to do so on a more regular basis. I made sure the post has plenty hyperlinks to my web sites, this blog and the Scenes and Beans blog.

Ever noticed the percentage numbers on the page for any book at Amazon.com? They’re listed under the heading: What do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item? For example, on the
Coral Moon page, 41% of viewers of the page buy the book. (Percentages are also listed for what other books a viewer of the Coral Moon page will also buy.) The Violet Dawn page shows that 64% of viewers buy the book. It’s my theory—based on the highly unscientific fact that I do it myself—that many people use Amazon.com as a way to find out about more a book, even if they’re not ready to buy, due to all the information Amazon.com now offers about the product. You can see reader reviews, who published the book, how many pages it is, see the link to the author’s other works, and sometimes get a sneak peek inside the first 15 or so pages. I figure with so many people checking out any book of mine on Amazon.com, I should have a consistent marketing presence on that page.

If you’re a published author and haven’t set up your profile in order to blog on Amazon.com, I suggest you go through the process. It takes a few days to set up, as another party has to verify that you are the author of the books you claim. I had gotten so slack about this I hadn’t even claimed Violet Dawn yet. So the new blog post I wrote shows up on all my other books, but won’t show up on Violet Dawn and Coral Moon until the author verification goes through.

How about you? Do you visit Amazon.com for information about books? If you’re an author, are you using its blog program? Or as a reader, do you take time to read the author blog posts?

13 comments:

Sally Bradley said...

Brandilyn, I use Amazon for info for author interviews on my blog. I get the book cover from there (or CBD), back cover copy if they have it, and any other info I might need.

I rarely order from them -- I love browsing the fiction section in a bookstore and choosing books that way. If they don't have the one I want, they can always order it. Going back to pick it up gives me another excuse to browse!

Hope you're feeling well.

Kristy Dykes said...

Great post. Thanks for the info.

I order lots of books from Amazon.com. I also get info about books and authors. I've read a few author blog posts, but don't have the time to read many. I also don't have a blog there. That's something I'd like to do in the future.

Sheryl said...

I almost always use Amazon to look up info on books, getting the reviews, etc. I skim over the author blog posts on Amazon, but since I read so many "real" blogs (such as yours :-)), I don't pay a whole lot of attention to them.

I do buy quite a few books from Amazon, but will normally try to check a book out from the library first if possible (to see if I really want to buy it). Most Christian titles I'll buy or order through our church bookstore. Since I'm on staff I get a nice discount, and every little bit helps!

I hope you are getting the things you needed to settle in to California a bit better :-)

Lynette Eason said...

Hi, I use Amazon.com all the time to find information on books. I also buy from them quite often if I'm ordering $25 or more because of the free shipping. Yesterday I ordered $25.13 worth of books. (One of them being Coral Moon, BTW, as a gift for my mother...smile.)

As for reading the blogs, I didn't know Amazon had that...guess I'm so focused on getting on, getting what I need and getting off before I'm tempted to spend more than I planned that I never paid attention to the blog stuff.

Blessings,
Lynette

Cara Putman said...

Right now I post reviews at Amazon, and then search for books. Last week I started a Shoutlife page and coupled with my blog that'll be my online marketing presence till I get closer to my books releasing. It's almost been overwhelming to get started there but now it's stablized and I've even figured out how to drive traffic from there to my blog.

When my books start showing up on Amazon, I figure I'll have to start a presence there as well. Many of my friends and family buy most of their books online.

Carrie said...

I've blogged a bit on my Amazon page. I hadn't thought of adding a web page link (many thanks!) so I'll just hop right over and do so. Ah, Brandilyn, another great idea.

LaShaunda said...

I use amazon a lot for the interviews I do on both of my blogs. I buy books and other items from them. I check ratings for products before I buy them.

I get book covers from them and I read different blogs on amazon.

It is definitely a place to promote, most readers go there first. I even tell self published authors to list their books there.

D. Gudger said...

I use amazon to take peeks inside books and I do buy from there. Their shipping compared to B&N is much faster and more reliable. I also find better deals on Amazon. I have not checked out the author blogs. If I spend too much time there, I'd spend too much money!

Amazon also has books that I can't find on bookstore shelves...

Rich said...

I buy a lot of books from Amazon, but didn't even know about the blog. Several books I planned to buy, but turned away due to bad reviews, so I pay attention to those, too.

Pam Meyers said...

I order from Amazon, CBD, and other places all over the internet. Never ever buy a book from a brick and morter store unless it's on sale or I have a coupon. Way too expensive.
Regarding Borders vs. B&N. I have a membership with Borders which gives me coupons all the time. It cost me nothing to join. When I was in B&N recently I was asked if I wanted a membership there. I was ready to sign up until I realized it would cost me $25 to join. No thanks.

Pam

Pam Meyers said...

I order from Amazon, CBD, and other places all over the internet. Never ever buy a book from a brick and morter store unless it's on sale or I have a coupon. Way too expensive.
Regarding Borders vs. B&N. I have a membership with Borders which gives me coupons all the time. It cost me nothing to join. When I was in B&N recently I was asked if I wanted a membership there. I was ready to sign up until I realized it would cost me $25 to join. No thanks.

Pam

Pam Meyers said...

LOL, I don't know why my comment showed up twice. Brandilyn, you may want to delete one LOL.

SolShine7 said...

I use Amazon all the time. It's my number one spot to find info on authors. My journalism professor even told us to use it as a resource on how to track down info. The links to the author's publisher is key. The look inside feature has helped me many a times to figure out whether or not the author writing style fits my taste.

However, I've never bought anything from Amazon. I rather go to a bookstore.