Category Archives: From Mental Kipple

How To Lose Sales And Alienate People

I do so love my Sony e-reader, it's small, it's tough and the text display is very much like paper. With it I can sling it in my bag and have a large chunk of my library with me at any one time.

For a while it was only available in America which is where I bought mine. I then waited what seemed like an eternity for it to be released over here in the UK.

In America there is a lovely big library of books you can download electronically and until Waterstones fired up their version of the e-book library over here in the UK the only books I could (legally) read on my reader were those either in the Public Domain, or licensed under the Creative Commons license.

So I was hoping for big things from the Waterstones launch.

The Waterstones website is not as slick or intuitive as the Sony's American ebook library. To search for specific e-books as opposed to paperback or hardback formats, you need to hit the 'advanced search' button. The ebook minisite's search bar will, by default, search the whole of the site.

For an example, if you go to the Waterstones ebook site and search for 'Devil May Care', the first four results are in non-ebook formats.

But here is the main problem. I really like the works of Neal Stephenson and I've been looking forward to reading his new book 'Anathem'. I'm making an effort to buy as many new books in e-book format because they take up less space in my flat, are more portable and with the Sony e-reader, there is little difference between that screen and the printed page.

Also, downloading an ebook really does tickle the part of the monkey brain that desires instant gratification. Now waiting for the postman to drop an Amazon package through my letterbox and no need to go hunting for a copy (that may not be in stock) in physical bookshops.

But of course, 'Anathem' is not in the Waterstones e-book store.

If I were an American I could buy it from the Sony library with no problems, but because of what I assume is licensing concerns it's not available in the UK. Actually there is very little in the Waterstones library that I am interested in reading, it has quite a limited selection and as mentioned earlier the search mechanism discourages browsing.

At least I assume that it's the licensing that is the problem – It is possible that Waterstones could be purposefully limiting the number of ebooks that they 'stock' in order to determine demand. Or perhaps, for some reason, they want the e-reader to fail.

So they have a lost sale. If I weren't such a rabid fan of Stephenson's books I wouldn't now go and buy the physical object, I'd just not bother.

I quite fancied reading 'Apache', but it's not available as an e-book and I don't desire to read it enough to buy it in hardback.

One lost sale right there.

Electronic bits after all do not respect boundaries – It's how I've seen, loved and evangelised 'Burn Notice' before it's show on UK TV. It's why I make my book (and forthcoming sequel) available for download. Everyone who enjoys a book gets to appreciate the author and so will be more likely to buy other books by them.

By limiting the amount of readable material you are cutting your market. Can someone tell me how that makes sense?

It's no wonder the torrent sites are doing a fine business, to take traffic away from them the legitimate companies need to concentrate on making the user experience of getting the content as easy and painless as possible. It's the reason why I download my music from iTunes rather than bittorrent it, pure convenience and the satisfaction that comes from doing the right thing

Anyway, I've sent Waterstones an email, so I'll be interested in their reply.