Friday, September 25, 2009

Amazon for Indies x 100

I met the founder of Tubuk, Andreas Freitag, at BEA last May. He presented Tubuk to me as "an Amazon for indies." I think what they've created is amazing -- it's an Amazon for Indies x 100 -- and genuinely believe that this format will be the greatest game-changer for independent publishers online in the future.

Tubuk is an internet marketplace that only sells independently published titles from those presses they've invited to take part. But in addition, they've also created a forum where users create profiles and discuss books, authors, and literature in general. Think of it more as a Facebook-Amazon-Goodreads hybrid.

Presently, there are a tremendous number of venues for books to be sold online, but none of them cater strictly to indies and most of them rely heavily upon paid-placement, which means that unless you're searching for a specific book or author you may have trouble finding it. And once you do, they'll try to cajole you into buying a "similar" title by saying "if you like this, you might like...", which isn't based on similarity but rather on whether someone paid them to say that they're related.

Indiebound services independent bookstores. In recent memory, nearly all Indiebound Picks have come from corporate houses. Believe me, I'm not complaining since I imagine that this is at least partly due to the fact that it is somewhat expensive for publishers after their title has been selected to actually take part in the program. And also because there are great books published by big presses., I believe, is the most level playing field for indie presses online and I love what they've managed to create, which feels like an online extension of their inspiring store. But it's in their best interest to serve all publishers, large or small. Again, I'm not complaining.

Amazon accounts for less than 3% of our total sales (which is why I don't feel nervous saying they're big and evil and unhealthy for society at large) while sales directly to independent bookstores make up over 35%. That's a truly huge difference. And indie bookstores don't charge us mysterious marketing fees.

I don't believe that there can be a replacement for an authentic corner bookshop, but for those of us stranded in areas of the country without many options apart from box stores, the idea of forging an online community akin to the experience of shopping at an indie bookstore is inspiring.

Now, what we need is for Tubuk to bring their model to the U.S.

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