Ingram Blog

From Walled Garden to Wild Meadow

Publishers have long relied on a supply chain that is two steps removed from their ‘real’ customers (readers), and they are increasingly at the mercy of large retailers who command high discounts, favorable returns policies, etc. While the independent bookseller market has shown resilience in recent years, the marketplace for books is a competitive and often polarized space that is increasingly challenged with issues around discovery, visibility, and monopoly.

The system now is much more centralized assumes that generally books are bought in bookshops or book sections of larger stores, and the transactions are increasing online as with all other retail markets.

Marketplace Diversity

The rise of the internet as a retail space has, in part, facilitated the success of just-in-time technologies such as print on demand. An increasingly flexible supply chain, print on demand, allows books to be published that may have overnight success or remain in print for books that have limited audiences. While this model relies on stores and their ability to hold large title catalogs coupled with trusted ecommerce and sophisticated user analytics, it can never offer the breadth of content nor can it curate enough titles to an individual customer’s interests.

But the online world around traditional buying destinations has changed significantly. It’s more diverse, decentralized, and media-rich, running in streams and on sites organized around interests and relationships, carried around with us during all waking hours. Delivering commerce at the point of interest and engagement is a requirement in the ‘Me’ economy. New to the changing environment of publishing is the capability for direct-to-consumer sales in a more dynamic and customer-centric way, that places the product at the heart of the consumer’s activity rather than expecting a consumer to stumble across a publisher website or promotion.

Leading this change is Aer.io, a platform that has been innovating in the intersection of ecommerce and social media that was acquired by Ingram in December 2015. Aer.io is designed to help readers find, buy, and sell books from diverse sources across the Internet, especially on the social web, focusing on creating a diverse and decentralized marketplace for books.

Selling where the customer is – outside the bookshop

Direct ecommerce has been around for a while, but most publishers have followed a ‘hope and see’ approach – Hope that customers find their site and See if they sell something. The site becomes a showcase of their publishing to support authors and booksellers, with many investing in SEO to drive traffic to increase awareness and possibly transactions. The key problem with this approach is that very few customers buy books by publisher brand. When was the last time that you visited a bookstore where the books were arranged by publisher? When purchase takes place, it’s within the walled garden of an online retailer. When publishers use Aer.io, they can add ecommerce to their website, sell in social media campaigns or any site wherever the link is embedded, increasing their direct sales and customer knowledge with the added incentive of higher margins.

Customer purchasing history and patterns is the key to successful selling, but this important information is not available to publishers unless they sell directly to customers using a platform like Aer.io. Knowing that a reader likes a specific author or genre can give a publisher a real opportunity to sell more books or publish in that space. By collecting customers’ email information, Aer.io provides publishers with a database of future customers to market to and the tools to do that outreach. It’s simple to create a community around the book or author’s fans. Publishers can reconnect with readers, engage with future authors and customers, and enable the fans to sell the book as an affiliate. Customized calls-to-action placed in the pages of an e-book’s in-browser samples increase the likelihood of a sale. Regardless of publisher size, this turnkey solution offers book enthusiasts, authors, and publishers the opportunity to create new sales channels and curate micro sites in minutes.

With Aer.io, anyone can easily sell print and e-books from a website, newsletter, Facebook page, Twitter feed, Pinterest account, or anywhere you connect with potential buyers.

A seller can curate a featured collection on (say) a specific subject drawn from the Ingram inventory of 14 million titles, including books from virtually every publisher as well as non-book merchandise like audiobook CDs, Blu-ray videos, graphic novels, gifts, toys, games, and more. Aer.io delivers instant fulfillment of e-books with social DRM and watermarking in multiple formats. By enabling sales wherever the reader may be exploring or discovering content, Aer.io makes each of these a potential point of sale for either print or e-books.

There is a revolution taking place in the book world. With the barriers of selling removed, the opportunities for proliferating sites selling bestsellers to niche audiences just got a whole lot easier. Aer.io believes it will transform the way we discover and buy books. It will be interesting to see where the journey from the walled garden to the diverse meadowlands takes the book lover, and whether it truly can challenge the rise of the online destination stores.

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