Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The day/ week everyone spoke about book stores, book publishers & E-readers

Every journalist has gone nuts for E-readers this week, with recent technology research (from research firm iSuppli) finding that the global E-book display market is expected to grow to $291 million in 2012 from $3.5 million in 2007. Plus launches of new e-book readers worldwide and news of positive performance year on year for UK book store’s such as Waterstones & Borders.

Waterstones are also due for a new website launch and recently Comscore reported news that Borders UK unique users increasing by 176% between May 2008 and May 2009, (from 61,000 to 169,000). Good news with the recent notification of close down of five Borders Flagship stores this week.

Plus we saw stories such as:

“Blackwell are launching eBook download store”

“Amazon are preparing a UK launch of the Amazon Kindle”

“US publisher Barnes & Nobile are launching the world’s biggest electronic book store to compete with a similar service offered by web retailer Amazon”

“Google’s pending federal court case which would/could allow them to release millions of books in e-book format”

“The launch of the Sony Reader and the Cool-er E-reader from Interead and stories that they could galvanize the market for digital text in the way the Apple’s Ipod did for digital music”

And the cherry on top

An article today from Retail week in which they summed up the development of the electronic book sector in article titled “Digital media sales raise new customer service questions for retailers” check it out.

What is an E-reader / E-book?

If you haven’t worked it out already: An E-reader or E-book is an alternative to the paper book, and has been popular with travellers and those who don’t want to carry around heavy books, so they opt for a lighter weight electronic book or e-book.

As well as being a handy gadget to have, the E-reader (of E-books) also presents a valuable opportunity for publishers and authors to generate income from their content. It is anticipated that take up will grow during the Xmas months, so expect to see E-readers in magazines and on TV adverts near a sofa near you soon.

Recent news and New news on E-readers and E-books

Currently the journalists are all talking about digital rights of E-books and the technologies behind each reader and of course the battles to Xmas market.

So we thought we would take a different take on this weeks “Hot Topic” and talk about how companies such as Waterstones, Borders, Sony, and Interead (launched the Cool-er Reader – they make reading cool) can use social media to help them build their community of followers.

It will be a challenge for the above companies to market their differences and in the same breath it will a challenge for consumers to know which E-reader to choose.

Thus we propose that to stay ahead of the game, one of the companies should quickly align themselves as being the one which provides the most help, advice and information to enable the customers and the authors (don’t forget the authors) to get the most enjoyment out of their reader and hopefully the biggest range of books.

What marketing tool can help with this. Well social media of course. Social media & social networking will allow for viral messaging of these new gadgets / technologies; information sharing; flattening those hierarchy’s and most importantly help build a community of loyal fans and followers.

As with all our projects firstly we will review the digital landscape. Lets look at how authors, publishers and avid book fans are using social media right now, we will then recommend an initial social strategy, which we hope will be of interest to those thinking about setting up a social strategy themselves.

Social networking : the authors role & the publishers role

Historically writers do not perform in the public in the same way as musicians for example, the publisher has always been the intermediary. However it is part of the authors DNA to be creative and many authors are now using social media tactically as a way to promote their books, a great advantage of doing this is that they start to build up and audience for the long term.

Authors are also using social media as a way to keep the buzz of the book alive. Rocktime Social envisages that a number of authors will have Google Alerts and Twitter Alerts set up, so that they know when people are talking about their books online (Ego-tastic!). It is important for authors to participate with comments on the web as it is here that they can then create positive word of mouth and turn those who may not have liked the book around (possibly).

There is also evidence of large publishers using social media effectively for example Penguin Books and their launch of Penguin 2.0 services back in Dec 2008, they are using digital and social media tools to connect with their customers, which includes aspects of customisation, personalisation, delivery to mobile phones as well as e-books and e-only content.

Social networking helps boost an authors esteem

Social networking is helping boost an Authors raison d’etre and recently we have seen signs that it can also help keep the story alive. Crime Thriller Author (and former Marketing Executive) Jeff Abbott, placed the Hero of his new book on Twitter, in which he is sharing updates of character Luke Dantry’s life on the run . Several authors use Blogs and Myspace for book promotion and updates on new releases, recently they have also now started to promote more their other social spaces (inc: Facebook & Twitter).

Social steps for E-Book providers

Based on the above information it is proposed that those who distribute E-books and E-book readers should promote their products within these social networks.

To understand more about the benefits of social media and how social netowrking can be measured visit this blog post for an introduction to social media strategy from Rocktime Social or call Rocktime’s Marketing team to talk it over.

Recommendation: Capturing publishers & authors & keep customers coming back

To capture the eye of the publishers & authors it is suggested that sites providing E-readers and E-books create an area which is useful for both authors and readers alike.

Based on the above insights initially we would propose that the providers place a new category on their site for them to provide author profiles which will includes lists and links to the authors social spaces (helping them spread awareness) and update (automatically – RSS feeds) fans of new author profiles along with promoting new catalogues & books as they arrive.

Doing something that is both different and useful on your site, will keep the community coming back.

Hey: How about digital book signing, or a collection of books you recommend for a loved one (now that is an idea!).

Promote the E-book company & authors in natural search

Providing profile pages for authors will not only help build relevancy (Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy) on your site, promoting you in natural search, but will also promote authors. Rocktime have developed a proven model of a site owner promoting others, with Local Food Advisor website in which the focus of promotion on the site is on local food producers, the owners of LFA are being social by promoting food lovers blogs and getting the food lovers to promote the LFA site in return.

Please note: Rocktime are not advising(unless of course you have a huge social media budget) that the E-book providers branch out into forums of public debate about new books, delayed releases, but to simply promote authors social spaces and to leave any backlash about killed off heros in the Authors own social space.

How social media and social networking can help E-book providers now

Before the E-book providers build a community of fans, social media & social networking can help the providers of E-book readers right now, with Reputation Management of comments in news stories/ forums/networks. It is important that they are ready to respond. Rocktime can assist here with ongoing management of your social strategy.

How they can be ready to respond is simply: Create a whole host / heap of questions and answers on your site, even if you are advertising the answers in magazines and other PR material.

Q: Does the E-book reader care about what computer you plug it in to?
A: No

They can then provide links to these answers saving time, promoting the most frequent Q&A on the home page. Address all issues. Even list them at the side of your twitter account, saving time answering repetitive questions is a great cost avoidance strategy (in the long term).

Summary of E-book providers using social media and social networks

Along with using social media to target the various book title categories, social networks can also help them target the gadget fans and fashion & design fans as well as travellers and avid readers.
Social media will help E-book providers and E-book distributors to promote their company values and enable them to be whoever they want to be ie: honest, approachable, helpful, sensitive, useful and authentic online.

Once a community is formed there are also great forces for fun and creativity in future months, years, further creativity will be gleamed from communicating with fans and followers.
We will be watching the E-reader market with interest, which one will get the followers, the fans, only time will tell (well by end of year).

Author: Sarah Griffiths, Search Marketing Manager at Rocktime & self confessed social media junkie and fan of Jeff Abbott. (Find her on twitter @sarahgriffiths – and if you liked this post let her know)


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