There was a time in our industry when many of the major book publishers built direct relationships with their readers by creating “book clubs” in which they would send one book per month to their subscribers. This was an effective business practice that helped publishers increase sales, build awareness of their brand and cultivate loyalty among a base of readers.
Those were the days before retail chains and the readers depended on the big city stores. Publishers took it as an opportunity for promoting their brand and increasing sales. They recommended and promoted the most famous and noteworthy books in any category. The most important advantage that the book clubs could offer to their members was convenience.
With the rise of large book retail chains, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, those readers suddenly had easy access to a large inventory of books within short driving distances. They discovered they could buy books any time they wanted, often for a discounted price, and publisher book clubs went on the decline.
There is good news for publishers: Thanks to the internet, with the rise in ebook consumption every year, publishers now have the opportunity to restore the old-fashioned book clubs.
Some forward-thinking publishers are leveraging the power of email marketing and social media to build interest among their readers in joining an “ebook club” in which customers gain access to a collection of ebooks for a monthly subscription. At Impelsys, we work with some consumer-facing publishers who charge as little as $3.99 per month for subscriptions to their ebook clubs and with some professional-facing publishers who charge as much as $19.99 per month.
Ebook clubs are gaining in popularity for three simple reasons:
• They deliver great value to the end user, by having simple online access to a library of books for a low monthly price
• They protect publishers from online retail competition, especially from the large sites that are able to extend deep discounts, by providing ongoing sales revenues and by creating a different online product in the form of a subscription.
• They help publishers build direct reader relationships so they can engage on a deeper level with their customers and strengthen their brand loyalty.
We’ve observed that the key to a successful ebook club depends on a range of factors including:
• Captured market: Having a captured market targeting a genre of readers. For example book clubs within specific content like romance, cooking, pediatrics, medicine etc. A publisher having content and loyal customers in a targeted market could create a successful ebook club. For example one of our customers, F+W Media (parent to Digital Book World) successfully built seven ebook clubs based on its strengths in categories like romance, arts and crafts, guns, writing and design, markets where it has a significant position.
An example of an F+W ebook club, Crimson Romance:
• Brand value: A publisher with a strong and loyal brand can build ebook clubs. For example, we’ve partnered with Sesame Workshop to build a successful ebook club for its globally renowned Sesame Street brand, which is a powerhouse in children’s publishing.
Sesame Street ebook club:
• Unique Content: Publishers that have unique or must have content in targeted areas of reader interest can turn this value proposition into a subscription based ebook club.
We have observed that the ebook clubs have enabled publishers to create direct relationships with their readers and generate revenues with monthly auto-renewals on their subscriptions.
The data below shows how one of our ebook clubs retained its customers over a six-month period:
Book clubs are a smart business strategy for publishers today, just as they were in their heyday. The rise of ebooks offers an excellent opportunity to put this strategy to work once again, driving book sales, enhancing brand awareness and building direct relationships with their readers.
This blog was featured in Digital Book World. http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/the-return-of-the-book-club/