We began contracting with online retailers late last year, and at the same time contracted for access to what is known as a Digital Asset Management server — a web server which could hold our ebooks and make them available as appropriate to our retail partners. All that is now in place and we are moving books onto the server.
We have retail arrangements in place with all the “name” ebook retailers, including Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, and Sony, as well as about 25 others. These arrangements cover most of the planet. We have long had distribution agreements in place to sell print books in most of the English-speaking world, but the reality is that the cost of shipping printed books around the world results in their having very high retail prices overseas. With ebooks, everything changes. Moving digital files across the Internet is extremely simple, almost instantaneous, and there are essentially no costs incurred.
I think that in time we should see an interesting volume of sales to countries outside the US and Canada.
The Start-Up Phase
For the next few weeks, we will be working hard to iron out whatever wrinkles we find in the system. We have started cautiously, with about 25 titles, in EPUB format only, which will also appear for sale on our website this week.
Once we are satisfied that the test titles are reaching our retail partners along with the collateral information each of them needs, and the titles are showing up on their ebook sales sites, we will begin rapid roll-out of the remaining titles in our list with the aim of having all current books in both the EPUB and MOBI formats released by May.
Some years ago, the European and North American publishing industries got together with retail industry executives and worked out a standard way of describing the “metadata” which retailers need in their system in order to sell books. The result was the ONIX standard, which describes everything from the title, author(s), price, weight, and dimensions of each book, to the category, language, and sales territory.
ONIX helped considerably in cleaning u and standardizing what had been a terribly messy, different-data-per-retailer situation. We invested in an ONIX database system which allows us to keep our retail partners updated via electronic file transfers.
I suppose I should not be all that surprised, but it transpires that many online retailers have not yet adopted the ONIX standard, and those companies are instead asking for spreadsheets (each of course is different)! As I mentioned in my previous post, ebooks may look simple to deal with, but it is rather like an iceberg, where most of it is hidden from view.
Testing and More Testing
Before we place literally a few hundred ebooks into the Digital Asset Management server, I want to have a high degree of confidence that we are doing everything right, and that the retail partners we have contracted with are receiving our ebooks and all the collateral materials they need, in the forms and formats they require. We have been testing for a while and I am hopeful that we will get the results we want within days, rather than weeks.
As soon as we know what works well, and can repeat each step without errors, we will move to Round Two of our launch, with 104 ebooks on that list.