Next Chapter Bookshop owner Lanora Hurley talks about Google eBooks

When I first read about Google eBooks launching their online bookstore, the part that excited me was that they are partnered with independent bookstores. And then I saw Next Chapter Bookshop was listed, and I was even more excited. Next Chapter is in Mequon, Wisconsin, and I can vouch that it’s a great place to shop, inviting and friendly, and they have many author visits.

This is part of the announcement from IndieBound (which includes a list of participating shops):

“A Google eBook is a new form of cloud-based digital book that allows readers to access their libraries on almost any device from one single repository, regardless of where the ebook waavs purchased. ABA has partnered with Google because of its open and accessible platform so ABA member bookstores can provide an easy way for their customers to discover, read, and buy ebooks at competitive prices. Google is offering hundreds of thousands of titles for sale, ranging from new releases and bestsellers in every category to classics in the public domain.

A list of participating ABA member stores that have opted-in to sell Google eBooks online can be found below. (This list of stores will be updated periodically.) Because Google eBooks work with myriad devices — tablets, smartphones, computers, even most e-ink devices — consumers are free to shop from a variety of retailers rather than being bound to one retailer. This opens up a wealth of indie recommendations and bestsellers to avid ebook readers.”

I still wasn’t sure how it would work, and Lanora Hurley from Next Chapter graciously agreed to answer my questions.

Lanora, thank you so much for explaining this to us. I went to Google eBooks to see how it worked and clicked on a couple of books. They had the Buy button, but there was no way to specify that I wanted to buy from your shop. Would I have to call Next Chapter or go to your place to buy an ebook?

All you have to do is go to our website at www.nextchapterbookshop.com!  The American Booksellers Association’s partnership with Google eBooks allows us to make the digital books available for purchase on our website.  This means that if anyone would like to support their independent bookstore when purchasing their digital books, they can choose to go through us first, thus allowing us to make (a little) money off of each purpose.  Think of it this way: yes, you could go to Google eBooks and buy directly, but if you use our website as the front door you are also buying local and keeping the money in the community!

Would the prices be the same going through your shop as listed on Google eBooks?

Most of the prices will be the same, some will not be.  In the simplest terms, this has to do with the agreements that the publishers have put together for the sale of their product.  Some publishers have put in place an agreement that requires every retailer to sell the book at the same price.  However, some publishers allow the retailer to sell the book at whatever price they choose.  Most of my competitors will price these books for LESS than what they cost them to use them as a “loss leader” to entice people to buy the hardware required to read the book.  This is where they make their money.  Being a small locally owned business, we are unable to price anything below what we paid for it!  Or if I did, I wouldn’t be around for long.

This is so new, I’m not sure what to ask. Is there anything else you can tell me about this program?

It’s a brave new world out there!  My goal is to offer my customers access to good books, in any format they choose.  I don’t feel that the bound book is going away anytime soon.  I signed up for the program for those customers that have an e-reader and also wanted to be able to continue to support Next Chapter Bookshop.  The only caveat is that the digital books from our website will not work on Amazon’s Kindle.  The Kindle uses what is called a “proprietary” format and if you own one, you can ONLY buy your books from Amazon.  My advice to customers is to not lock themselves into buying from one retailer.  Any other e-reader device on the market, from the Nook to Sony to an iPad, are compatible with Google eBooks.  I am not very computer savvy, but found it easy to purchase and download one of the e-books from our website, and I did it on my iPhone!  Now as to actually reading it on a little screen?  That is something I am afraid I am not used to yet!

Lanora will answer questions, so ask away! I’ll be giving away an e-book to a commenter that I’m buying through Next Chapter Bookshop. In honor of Jane Austen’s Dec. 16th birthday, I’ll give away ACCORDING TO JANE by Marilyn Brant. In addition to having the #1 spot on the Kindle bestselling list this fall, ACCORDING TO JANE is #5 on Buzzle.com’s 100 Best Romance Novels of All Time! I’ll announce the winner here tomorrow morning.

Congratulation to Elle, the giveaway winner! Enjoy the book and have a great holiday!

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29 Responses to Next Chapter Bookshop owner Lanora Hurley talks about Google eBooks

  1. Berinn says:

    I have no questions for Lanora (so leave me out of the drawing ;-) ). I just wanted to say ‘thanks’ for explaining how the google e-book thing was going to work. Sounds awesome!

  2. Edie Ramer says:

    Berinn, thanks for commenting. You don’t need to ask questions, though, to be in the giveaway.

  3. Joe Barone says:

    Edie,
    Thank you so much for this post. I had read the story about this in The Christian Science Monitor, but I didn’t know exactly how it worked. I was looking to know exactly how to order books from local stores. From now on, I will buy my ebooks from a local bookstore.

    • Edie Ramer says:

      Joe, it just feels better to order through a local store. I caught the last half hour or so of You’ve Got Mail last night, and I thought how times had changed, with the big chains floundering and the independent bookstores finding new ways to flourish.

  4. Lanora, thank you for explaining how this works. I think it’s great information for authors who are placing buy buttons beneath their book covers (on their websites). If they want to support their local bookstores, they should add a link to the store in addition to Amazon, Borders, Barnes, etc., giving readers a broader choice. And readers will appreciate the heads up on the Kindle.

    Tracey

    • lanora says:

      Tracy,

      I would love it if authors remembered to post links to their local independent bookstore. As a side note, I will say that if you are an author and you would like us to carry your book in the store I am less inclined to do so when the only link you provide as to the availability of your book is Amazon. I am very good at promoting books and getting them into the hands of readers, but in order to do that I need to have a viable business. Selling a book is a partnership between the author, the publisher and the bookstore. I can not sell your book if you do not support the store that is willing to find your reader. Thank you for your comment and letting me put in my 2 cents!

  5. This is a great way to keep bookstores in the loop with the huge market that is becoming ebooks. I personally, own a Kindle, but have purchased books in other formats from Smashwords. There are still so many books NOT AVAILABLE on Kindle, such as older books, that I cannot see the hard/soft cover market ever disappearing.

    Thank you for sharing this information, Lanora. My question would be: do smaller bookstores do any active research of books that are not available electronically and strive to get these books on hand more often? I’m currently reading This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti and HAD to buy it in paperback. Not a problem to me…

    • Edie Ramer says:

      Kathee, I own a Kindle and have purchased from Smashwords, too. And we can send to Kindle for them to convert, though the formatting might not be perfect.

  6. lanora says:

    Kathee,
    We do special orders for customers all the time. This is a service that we always provide. While we can not carry every book on the shelf (this being Mequona and not Alexandria), we are happy to try to get any book that is in print per request. Occasionally, we will even order out of print books for customers if they are uncomfortable or unfamiliar with ordering online. All you have to do is call us or e-mail us with your request! Most independent bookstores will provide this service for you. Thanks!

  7. Edie Ramer says:

    Lanora, a friend who has self-published her backlisted book put it up on Google eBooks. She said it took her hours and was confusing and frustrating. She suspects the bugs will eventually be cleared. She’s going to put together instructions. When she does, I’ll give it a shot, even though I’m awful at anything technical. But of course I want my books everywhere I can have it.

  8. Amy Atwell says:

    Very helpful post, Edie and Lanora. Thanks for answering the questions. There’s been a lot of hype about Google eBooks, but since the technology is always changing out there, it’s nice to get an overview from people who know.

    Lanora, as an author of a digital-first book, I’m curious for your perspective on how ebooks are changing your retail landscape. Do you see the independent bookstores building their sales of digital books, or will print books always be the leader?

    • lanora says:

      I would be lying if I told you that I haven’t seen a dip in sales due to e-books. They are changing the retail bookstore landscape, but maybe not as quickly as the media likes to predict. There are still many bound books that are impractical to have in digital format. (I doubt you would buy a copy of Goodnight Moon for a new baby in your life in a digital format). And I am finding, anectdotally, that many people with e-readers are still partial to reading bound books in certain cercumstances.
      The bound book, in the format that we are familiar with, is called a codex. This form has been in use for over 1,500 years. I think you’d be hard pressed to find another object in your life that you still use that has basically unchanged for centuries. The bound book as an object is perfect in form for its function.
      The question really comes down to economics. Will people be willing to support their local bookstores regardless of the format they choose? I wish I could be confident that would be the case, but there are days I have my doubts. I hope that people think about what it means to them to have a local independent bookstore in their community and vote with their dollar.

      We are in the “Wild West” of digital technology. There are so many other issues we could discuss, including but not limited to privacy rights and copyright issues.

      As a first time author of a digital book, I would be curious to know why you choose this format for your book? Does publishing digitally give you any advantages over print? Do you retain the rights or get more royalties? These are things I don’t know.

      I wish I could predict the future. For now, I am hoping to keep an independent bookstore going by offering my customers great books, in whatever format they choose.

      • Amy Atwell says:

        Lanora,

        Thanks for your honest response. I live in a fairly small town, and I love supporting local businesses, so I watch what’s happening with the “digitazation” (I think I just created a new verb form) of books with anticipation and fear. It’s a huge change.

        You asked: “As a first time author of a digital book, I would be curious to know why you choose this format for your book? Does publishing digitally give you any advantages over print? Do you retain the rights or get more royalties? These are things I don’t know.”

        As a debut author, I didn’t choose the format of publishing my book. I sent agented submissions to the major print publishers of romance, but my book didn’t sell to them. After two years, I expanded my submissions to include digital publishers. I consider myself lucky to have Harlequin’s Carina Press publish it in their “digital-first” imprint. The book has already sold audio rights, and I hope that print rights will come down the road.

        As an author, I was confronted with industry statistics of staggering returns of mass market paperbacks from bookstores to publishers while digital sales are growing exponentially. Yes, on my contract, I make a higher royalty percentage on the digital sales then I will on print copies. But there’s no guarantee I’ll earn out more than the entry level genre author who receives an advance for print rights.

        I welcome the chance to discuss this further. I love the idea of a publishing business model that serves authors and retailers.

  9. Elle J Rossi says:

    Edie and Lanora,

    What a fantastic way to help our favorite local bookstores! It’s great to know that even in the midst of all these changes, people are still thinking about PEOPLE!

    • Edie Ramer says:

      Elle, I was first at the Next Chapter Bookshop for A.Y. Stratton’s booksigning–I think it was about a year ago–and I was so impressed with the shop. If I had a shop, that’s what I would want it to look like. Because I don’t go that way often, I hadn’t realized it was there. But it’s only about 20 minutes from my house.

  10. Dale Mayer says:

    Great post. I’m new to the whole ebook, kindle thing. Not sure where or how I want to progress, but appreciate the information.

    Thanks! Sounds like a great way to help everyone out!

  11. What a helpful Q&A, Edie and Lanora! This is such a brave new world, as you said, Lanora… I so appreciate learning more about the possibilities in digital and how we can further support our local bookstores, too. Thank you. :razz:

    And, Edie, extra hugs and thanks to you for offering my debut book as a giveaway!!! You are so wonderful… xoxoxoxox Hope the winner will enjoy it! ;-)

  12. Hi Lanora!

    Thanks so much for doing this post for us! My local independent bookstore has already sent out a newsletter announcing that they are part of this program, which thrills me.

    I’m what I would call an “integrated” author–I publish a cozy mystery series with Bantam but also self-publish backlist and new romantic suspense novels on Amazon, B&N, and other retail sites. I’ve watched the development of Google ebooks with great interest, and I’ve already uploaded my RITA-nominated romantic suspense as of last week (I suspect it’s pending approval–it hasn’t yet shown up for sale).

    My question for you has to do with pricing of self-published and backlist–previously NY-published–titles. The price point for a lot of these books is much lower than for books NY is publishing. For example, my cozy mystery is currently priced at $6.15 for the ebook, while my romantic suspense is priced at 2.99 (on Amazon, etc.). At that 2.99 price point, can independent booksellers make enough money off their split? I’m worried that the pricing pressure from these other retail sites will make it hard for those of us who support our local bookstores to really be of much help with regard to our self-published titles.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue!

    Thanks,
    P.J. Alderman

    • lanora says:

      I will start by saying I am not completely qualified to answer your question. I am still sorting through how the pricing structure works. Since we are partnering with Google e-Books TM, and the American Bookseller’s Assocation, the only e-Books I can sell are the ones available through them. We frequently take bound books from local and self-published authors on consignment in the store that are not available through any other outlet and are able to set the price of these such that we make money. However with e-Books I don’t have the infrastructure to do something similar digitally. My inclination is that IF I was able to offer self-published e-Books outside of Google e-Books, we would be able to price them in such a way that everyone wins. However my guess is that our agreement with Google would not permit it. Frankly, when it comes to self-published e-books, all bricks & mortar bookstores are left out of the loop. This model really is direct to the consumer. The advantage to the consumer is that they get a better price; the advantage to the author, I am guessing, is that you retain more of the sale since there is no middleman. If self-published e-Book authors and publishers wanted to use indies as a way to help sell and distribute their books, they would have to make a conscious choice to find a business model that works for all of us. However, I do not see any financial incentive to do so for the author or the publisher in this model. The only thing I can tell you is to continue to support your local indie when you DO buy bound books, and be sure to partner with them when you do have a self-published bound book.

      • Lanora,

        I think I misled you in my post by how I described what I was doing. In addition to listing NY publishers’ offerings, Google ebooks allows authors like me to upload my backlist titles and new offerings into their program through their Partner Program. So what I’m assuming is that these ebooks are available to you just like any other ebook through Google’s ebookstore. That means they should be part of the program you’re participating in as an independent bookseller. The difference you would see is that my self-published books would be priced lower than the ones coming from Bantam.

        Take, for example, a science fiction author like Dean Wesley Smith. Many of his backlist titles are out of print, but he’s now bringing them back out as ebooks. If he uploads these into the Google ebookstore, then you, as a bookseller would see his currently listed titles from his NY publishers, plus a list of more deeply discounted ebooks that represent his backlist (that until now would have been hard for you to get hold of).

        Or am I misunderstanding? Anyway, what concerns me is the pricing issues…I’m wondering whether these efforts by authors such as me will really be of much support to you. (Even though we support you in other ways!)

        Thx,
        PJ

        • lanora says:

          PJ,
          In that case, we do get a cut! Regardless of what the book is priced, if it is purchased through my website then I get a portion of the proceeds. Although, my cut of $2.99 is very small. :-) But it doesn’t matter. The advantage is that my costs associated with offering eBooks is so minimal. It’s not like I have to pay shipping! Good luck with your books! Lanora

  13. Sorry to be so late to the party. Lanora, thank you for the information. I’m an author with my debut novel coming out with Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books next summer, and I have been very interested in all the ebook information out there. I really hope independent bookshops can survive and thrive in the new ebook wave.

  14. Liz Kreger says:

    Finally getting a chance to comment on this blog.

    Thanx ever so much for the information you gave us, Lanora. In reading your responses to comments, I think you answered any questions I might have thought of … and then some. :wink:

  15. Pingback: Industry News | RWA-WF

  16. Thanks for explaining.

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