Target to Launch eBook Service in Partnership with Librify

Target announced their next foray into ebooks late Tuesday night, just in time for BEA 2014.

According to USA Today, Target is going to be launching a new ebook club type of service in partnership with Librify some time later this year. The specific details concerning Target’s service have not bee released, but several details concerning Librify have been shared:

Librify, which started beta testing with select users in March, offers a social-subscription service for e-books. For $8.99 a month, you get access to a recommended book each month, and a 10%-20% discount on all other e-books. Librify has more than 500,000 titles available for purchase so far — that’s about half of what Amazon offers through the Kindle.

“Eventually the goal is to have as much interactivity as we can,” says Joanna Stone Herman, CEO of Librify. She wants to marry a centuries-old tradition rooted in the physical world with the ease, convenience, and social reach of the Web.

“Since the beginning of people reading books people have said, let’s get five friends together, read the same book and talk about it,” she says. “But there’s nothing that’s been done to enhance that from a technology standpoint.”

Librify was founded in February 2013, and it has generally maintained a low profile. The startup last crossed my desk back in January 2014 when the company picked up a capital investor. Ingram, via its investment firm ICG Ventures, invested an unknown sum in Librify.

Target, on the other hand, is much better known. This is the second largest retailer in the US, and it has demonstrated a willingness to experiment. Its past ebook efforts include selling a broad set of ereaders, including the Kindle. This was subsequently replaced by an ereader section which focused on the Nook (and was likely subsidized by B&N), and at one point or another Target has also offered ebook gift cards and magazines subscription gift cards. It is not clear whether those cards are still available in all Target stores, however.

9 thoughts on “Target to Launch eBook Service in Partnership with Librify

  1. A book club! About time somebody tried this.
    If Target gets traction they can bestseller kingmakers.

    So, we now have Baen, feedbooks, and Target setting up their own ecosystems of store and apps. Doesn’t seem *they* think Amazon’s “monopoly” is unassailable.

    With Target in the fray, can Walmart be far behind?

  2. A Wal-Mart ebook store may be closer than you think. Wal-Mart picked up one of Nook’s top players back in January –

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303754404579312790264659158?et_mid=655920&rid=240998025

    ostensibly to work on Sam’s Club, and of course the doom-and-gloom mongers jumped on this as evidence of Nook’s imminent demise instead of thinking maybe Wal-Mart had its own agenda.

    But as we said on our blog back in October,” expect Wal-Mart, Costco and Target ebook stores soon.”

    The Target store – based on what little we now know – doesn’t seem destined for great things in itself, though may well find a welcome niche among its customer-base

    But we think Target’s move is the latest shot in the new US ebook war (Scribd, Oyster, OverDrive) that is going to seriously rock Amazon’s boat.

    To us it looks like Walmart are now ready to take the next step and follow the lead of the UK’s Sainsbury and Tesco with a dedicated Wal-Mart ebook store, buying direct from publishers, using all their financial muscle as THE world’s largest retailer to get deals that will make Amazon’s eyes water, and then roll out their ebook store to the Wal-Mart customer base which we can safely assume is many, many times bigger than Amazon’s.

    Throw in the possibility that Wal-Mart could buy B&N itself and work the two in tandem and things get seriously interesting.

    There seems little doubt the mainstream UK publishers are working closely with Sainsbury and Tesco to undermine Amazon UK’s dominance, and there should be no doubt they will embrace Wal-Mart, for all its faults, as a means to sideline their (the publishers’) dependence on Amazon.

    As Sainsbury has shown already – with ads for ebooks on the back of cereal packets, unique competitions like Win Tea At Downton Abbey, and some great deals, plus loyalty points redeemable on groceries and other purchases – can innovate in ways Amazon will struggle to match.

    But what we really like about the prospective Wal-Mart ebook store is that while Tesco and Sainsbury are off limits to indies at this stage, the Nook guy will be telling Wal-Mart very clearly what indies CAN offer.

    And with that comes the very realistic possibility Wal-Mart could buy Nook – NookPress included – and hit the ground running with a ready-made ebook customer base and store that just needs some sensible funding to put it back in contention.

    That could be THE game-changer for the US market. And a further blow to Amazon UK, as Wal-Mart own the UK supermarket Asda. An Asda-Nook ebook store would be the logical next step.

    And if Wal-Mart is serious about challenging Amazon then it would only be short step further to buying B&N itself. Again a safe bet the Big 5 would be falling over themselves to
    help Wal-Mart break Amazon’s stranglehold on the publishing industry.

    1. Walmart is never going to buy B&N – both the company and its niche are simply too unhealthy. And frankly, if Walmart wanted a bookstore chain they have both the capital and the credit to have picked up some or all of the Borders leases and built something from scratch.

      And as for buying the Nook platform, Walmart would indeed end up “using all their financial muscle as THE world’s largest retailer to get deals that will make Amazon’s eyes water”. The major trade publishers would hate that. They would never go along, and the current Hachette dispute is proof of that.

      And as for launching their own, Walmart still hasn’t figured out how to build up their website and sell digital content. And then there’s the problems with the deals Walmart would demand and publishers would hate.

      P.S. The main problem with proposing a competitor big enough to take on Amazon is that the publishers don’t want another Amazon. They want a bunch of little competitors which they can bully, and not the other way around.

      1. Yup.
        Should’ve thought of that in the 90’s when they embraced the warehouse chains and helped them decimate indie bookstores.
        Can you imagine Hachette negotiating terms with Walmart without Amazon as leverage?

  3. “The major trade publishers would hate that. They would never go along, and the current Hachette dispute is proof of that.”

    That argument would stand up if the major publishers were not actively encouraging Tesco (“unfeasibly excited”) in the battle against Amazon’s dominance.

    Bear in mind Tesco is the world’s second most profitable retailer after Wal-Mart and always in the top 5 by size, usually in second or third place behind right behind Wal-Mart.

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