Crazy idea, right? And by "we" I mean, "publishers." Big Six. Little guys. Everyone in between. What if we all got together and created an ebookstore? Assuming the DoJ wouldn't rule it out as another misguided case of collusion, I think this would be a terrific idea.
The thinking here was partially inspired by this interesting post from Valobox's Oli Brooks. Oli talks about creating an API where customer purchase data is shared. The goal is for someone to buy once, read anywhere. I love the concept but I question whether a retailer like Amazon would ever support it by exposing their customer purchase information. Ha! That's a funny one. OK, I don't just question it...I know Amazon would never support this.
But what if publishers launched their own uber-ebookstore and owned it outright? We could all switch over to the agency distribution model, receive 70% of sales and the remaining 30% would cover all the infrastructure costs to run the business. Using the agency model means we could also limit the impact any deep-pocketed retailers would have on selling everything at a loss with an eye on killing the competition.
Retailers are becoming publishers. And in the print days it would have been ridiculous to suggest publishers could join forces and create a 1,000+ outlet chain to compete with the superstores. That's not the case in the online retailing world though. We're just talking about one central website.
Now let's make things interesting. Let's force Amazon and the others to keep using DRM while we abandon it for our own store. Can we do that? Maybe not. If we all agree to a DRM-free approach in our own store how could Amazon refuse to do the same with theirs? And when they do, the "stick" that Charlie Stross says Amazon is beating us with goes away. Meanwhile, if we can go DRM-free in our store while other retailers insist on keeping DRM, let's take advantage of tools like Amazon's Send to Kindle so our customers can quickly and easily sideload their purchases on their Amazon device.
Yes, it's silly of me to think we could get all the publishers to buy into this. And then there's the need to go DRM-free; good luck getting everyone on board with that too. But boy, wouldn't it be fun to see this happen? It could really alter the ebookstore landscape.
P.S. -- Our uber-ebookstore could start with a foundation like Goodreads. It's a great review and recommendation service but it's not an ebook retailer. As a result, I never use it for title discovery since I don't want to get sent to another site for my ultimate purchase. I wonder if we could convince Otis Chandler to convert his business into this vision...