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.
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?