U.S. independent bookstores suffered a disappointing blow when Google recently announced that they were ending their partnership with independent bookstores for Google’s ebookstore. No one outside of Google really knows the company’s eventual plans – if any – for selling eBooks. Right now, Google seems rather lost in the eBook ecosystem.
Meanwhile, independent bookstores are grappling for a response to Amazon’s relentless march forward in the eBook marketplace. Despite the competition from Barnes & Noble, Apple’s iBookstore, Kobo, and the Sony Reader, Amazon has a commanding lead in the eBook space.
And, surprisingly, Amazon has even convinced many authors to sell their books exclusively via Kindle. Authors agreeing to Kindle exclusives baffle me. Ten years ago if those same authors had signed a book deal with a publisher, and the publisher said, “Oh by the way, your book will only be sold by Wal-Mart, no other retailer,” those authors would have been in the streets with pitchforks and storming the barricades. But, Amazon came calling and suddenly exclusive deals are okay? What about the vast audience of readers out there who have decided – for whatever reason – that they’d like to read eBooks outside of the Amazon Kindle ecosystem. Those readers are just out of luck.
And, back to independent bookstores, the reality is that even the most successful independent bookstores don’t have the financial success to build a technology platform from scratch and operate that platform – at great cost – to compete toe-to-toe with Amazon. And, with the speed of technology, bookstores need to immediately offer the customers eBooks now – not next week or next year.
With that backdrop, Readmill this week launched Library and Send to Readmill. And yes, as the provocative title of this post posits, Readmill’s announcement has positioned them extremely well to offer a defense against the Amazon tide – for those people who want an alternative ebook platform.
How does Library work exactly? A reader can download the Readmill iPad app, set up an account at the Readmill website, and then drag any ePub files into the browser. Those ePub gets uploaded to your personal library and are available for reading when you open the Readmill app. And, since registration is done via Facebook or Twitter, there are social reading elements built into Readmill. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more social reading features appearing soon.
And, what about the Send to Readmill feature? That’s equally powerful and offers hope for independent bookstores. When you purchase an eBook at partner stores, in addition to downloading the eBook file to your computer, you can simply click the Send to Readmill button, and the ebook gets sent directly to your Readmill library – available the next time you open the iPad app. No muss, no fuss.
And, oh yeah, that’s not all. You can use the Send to Readmill button with Readlists, a Readability project that allows you to create ePub files from web content and articles.
There are a variety of eBook reading apps available for the iPad. But no one yet has built the ease-of-use and cloud-based library system that Readmill has. Let’s all hope they’ve got the money for the very, very long haul as eBooks evolve.
And, oh yeah, re: the title of this post, I can’t close without saying: