Mark Gimen thinks that social networks like Facebook are where you’re going to find the future bookstores. Working from the current state of the news industry, which is depending more and more on Facebook for traffic, he suggests that Facebook could be the next platform for selling books:
The natural evolution of this is that Facebook and any social platforms that succeed it are where books ultimately will be sold. All the barriers to that are quickly falling down. At the beginning of the e-book era, e-books were tied to a specific device, your Kindle. Now they are tied to a retailer, Amazon. It’s become more and more clear that neither of those is really necessary. Lots of companies now can easily create the infrastructure to store, sell and deliver books to your app.
Is that a business that will always demand that publishers pay 30 percent of their net to an Apple or an Amazon? Or can you imagine it as a service that publisher’s buy for a flat 50 cents a book as they publicize their books on Facebook and sell them directly? Doesn’t take much of a mental workout to imagine that.
I don’t think it’s terribly likely to come to pass, but I’m also not going to dismiss this out of hand.
As I pointed out in July it is already possible to sell stuff on Facebook. There are companies that can help an author set up a store. It costs a lot more than 50 cents per copy, but the costs will go down if the idea of using FB as a sales platform bear fruit.
But even though it is possible to sell ebooks on FB, I don’t see that it becoming common – not unless a major retailer gets behind the idea (and why would they, when it’s someone else’s platform). There’s more to selling a book than just the financial transaction and it involves skills and activities that publishers don’t do very well, including discovery, customer service, promotion, and sales.
It takes a retailer to sell a lot of books, and once you’ve built up the infrastructure and business processes to support bookselling, you might as well launch a website where you can better control the buying experience.
It’s that whole “controlling your own platform” idea that is probably going to keep social networks from being able to replace Amazon as a channel for selling books (that, and DRM).
What do you think?