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?