Yesterday, the New York Times ran a story about how Google will be selling e-books through the websites of independent booksellers:
Later this summer, Google plans to introduce its long-awaited push into electronic books, called Google Editions. The company has revealed little about the venture thus far, describing it generally as an effort to sell digital books that will be readable within a Web browser and accessible from any Internet-connected computing device.
Now one element of Google Editions is coming into sharper focus. Google is on the verge of completing a deal with the American Booksellers Association, the trade group for independent bookstores, to make Google Editions the primary source of e-books on the Web sites of hundreds of independent booksellers around the country, according to representatives of Google and the association.
If you've been reading Slog, this shouldn't come as news to you—I wrote about it back in October and several times since then—but I want to repeat what I said when this news first broke: Indie booksellers need to figure out ways to make their websites into destinations that are just as interesting, appealing, and welcoming as their physical stores.
Third Place Books is far and away doing the best job of that in the Seattle area so far—they have blogs and social networking profiles, and they update content frequently. Pilot Books does really good work, but they're a little sporadic as they figure out what they want their website to be. But everyone could be doing a much better job: Videos of readings, interviews with authors, book recommendations, online book clubs, and other online strategies don't cost you anything but manpower, and they'll convince customers to spend time on the site. If they spend time on the site, they'll be much more likely to buy e-books directly from you.
Like it or not, your website is just as important as your physical store; the bookselling business is about to go through a change as dynamic as when Barnes & Noble and Borders first came on the scene, or when Amazon suddenly became the go-to bookseller for America. This time, indie bookselllers have a shot at reclaiming some ground from the big boys; if you blow it, you'll go out of business. It's that simple.