Hachette Confirms the Demise of eBooksForAll, Their Anti-Kindle eBookstore

Amazon-Hachette[1]Earlier today Hachette announced a partnership to sell books via Twitter, and they also quietly confirmed my report from Friday about their plans to sell Kindle ebooks direct to readers.

On Friday I broke the news that Hachette had quietly developed an ebookstore which would sell Hachette titles in Epub and Kindle formats with digital watermark, or social, DRM. I had most of the technical details but no confirmation from Hachette and little actual proof beyond registration details for the website.

Hachette confirmed the report today, with Hachette spokesperson Sophie Cottrell telling Publisher's Lunch that:

We're always doing internal experiments and many never see the light of day. The ebooksforall site was one of those experiments, and we shelved it months ago, in its early stages, to work on other projects.

While that is not a complete confirmation of my story, it does show that Hachette really did consider the idea of launching an ebookstore which would have competed with the Kindle Store.

While we don't know exactly why Hachette killed the idea, there's been some speculation as to the cause. This story was picked up by The Passive Voice on Saturday, where the commenters pointed out that running a retail site was harder than it looked.

As Passive Guy stated:

PG would have liked to see what Hachette’s idea of an ebook store looked like.

As PG has said, based on some personal ecommerce responsibilities in a past life, Amazon’s web site  is a work of sublime genius, the Mona Lisa of ecommerce sites.

The first comment concurred:

Interesting, but the time to launch the Hatchette e-book store would have been as soon as the contract with Amazon lapsed.

As PG points out, throwing up an e-commerce site isn’t as easy as everyone thinks. Maybe the closer Hatchette got to Christmas and the site still wasn’t ready, the more they realized their corn would be creamed for lack of holiday sales.

And

In the scheme of things creating the e-commerce site was the easiest part of going head to head with Amazon.

Just ask, B&N or Kobo or Apple or….

You need to get people to the site, to trust you with their credit card and to have what they want to buy. Then you have to go up against one of the most customer focused companies/sites in existence (Amazon) who even Walmart can’t seem to beat in the online sales arena.

The commenters could be right, but just to be clear let me remind you that we don't know whether Hachette was going to run the site themselves or let ebooks.com run it. The information I had said that it would be powered by ebooks.com, which could have meant that Hachette might also have let their partner run the store.

While ebooks.com is no Amazon, they still know more about selling ebooks than Hachette. I would not quite so cavalier in writing them off.

So why do you think Hachette changed their mind?

 

About Nate Hoffelder (11598 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

2 Comments on Hachette Confirms the Demise of eBooksForAll, Their Anti-Kindle eBookstore

  1. My opinion is that if there are X vice presidents at a company, then there are 2X or even 3X ideas of what the company should do.

    I imagine that one or more of the VPs at Hachette thought (and they probably still think) that it would be a good idea for Hachette to have it’s own ebook store. These VPs, however failed to convince the president of the company and/or the board of directors, so their idea got shelved.

    That is, “Hachette” didn’t “change their mind”. I would say that Hachette considered many ideas, did some preliminary work on some of the ideas, and then chose which idea (singular) would continue to be developed. I wonder what that idea might be.

    ——-

    My main problem with the coverage this story has received is that everyone seems to think that the only reason Hachette considered opening their own ebook store is because they wanted to try to become the major force in the market, pushing Amazon out of the way.

    I doubt if the executives at Hachette that wanted to set up an ebook store had any such intention.

    HarperCollins, Harlequin, and Baen all sell their books through Amazon (and other retailers), and they also all have their own online ebook stores. None of them seem to be trying to take over from Amazon as the dominant retailer. These companies obviously think that they get some value from operating their own stores, regardless of how many books they sell directly to customers.

    In this context, I would not be surprised if Hachette had opened its own ebook store even if their only goal was to have a better sense of what readers wanted.

    • That is, “Hachette” didn’t “change their mind”. I would say that Hachette considered many ideas, did some preliminary work on some of the ideas, and then chose which idea (singular) would continue to be developed. I wonder what that idea might be.

      Maybe I didn’t call this out explicitly enough, but Hachette paid the development costs for that ebookstore. While the cost is negligible compared to Hachette’s annual revenue, we’re still talking about a million dollars or more. To back away from that would look to me like they changed their mind.

      My main problem with the coverage this story has received is that everyone seems to think that the only reason Hachette considered opening their own ebook store is because they wanted to try to become the major force in the market, pushing Amazon out of the way.

      That’s a good point, but if as you say Hachette just wanted to connect with readers then they could have launched a regular bookstore. to launch one which used social DRM and sold Kindle format ebooks suggests that Hachette considered going after Kindle customers.

      Sorry, but I can’t see another reason for the DRM.

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