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Tor opened Tor Store to great fanfare a few weeks ago. The big news was that Tor Store was publisher agnostic. It plans to offer science fiction and fantasy book fans a one stop shopping place. Combined with the Tor blog, Tor is destined to become the preeminent online authority for all things science fiction and fantasy-ish. (Now, if they would only get their ebook store working.)
Mike Shatzkin, with whom I agree most of the time, is a preacher of the verticality mantra. He believes that those that adapt will succeed and those who cling to the horizontal business models of the day will be buried. Certainly we can see the success that Amazon is having with verticality as it gobbles up other suppliers such as print on demand technology that will undoubtably play a big part in its publishing future or ebook technology used to form the basis of the Kindle format.
Already online retail sales are overtaking brick and mortar store sales. According to this article, Barnes & Noble saw a slight increase in sales while Amazon similar media sales was significantly higher.
BKS closed FY2008 with a slight 1.5% increase in sales revenue, Amazon.com (AMZN) saw its 1Q 2009 sales revenue for books, CDs, music, and DVDs jump by more than 7%, largely due to the popularity of its Kindle 2 device and Kindle books.
Or maybe just take a look at this chart.
Tor benefits in a number of ways but two that I think are most important.
Increase in Brand Awareness
For those unfamiliar with the publisher (and that probably includes most casual readers), the Tor Store and it’s corresponding blog will increase reader awareness of its brand. Obviously more and more people are buying online, whether it be books or toilet paper. It makes perfect sense for Tor to jump on this. In the future, I can see Tor and SciFi Fantasy books becoming nearly interchangeable to the point that Tor is like the Kleenex of publishers of this niche.
This results in not only increasing the visibility of a Tor book online but also in retail stores. The Tor Store and blog may have the ability to increase book for its genre without mass promotion in stores or across the web because of the increased traffic from those who will be visiting the Tor Store and blog for exactly that information.
Increase in Brand Loyalty
One of the books that is profiled on the Tor Store site this month is Marjorie Liu’s July release, Darkness Calls, published by Ace, a division of Penguin. Another featured book is Greg Van Eekhout’s Norse Code, published by Spectra, a division of Random House. 2 out of the 6 books in the slider at the very top of the page are published by houses not Tor and not its parent, Macmillan.
The support Tor is giving to other authors increases the believability of its recommendations; thereby increasing the readers trust in the Tor voice.
Why This Would Work for Romances
Readers want easy things. They don’t want to chase around the internet to find release dates, to find new books to read, to find out interconnected titles, to get recommendations. It’s one reason that Amazon is so powerful. Clay Shirky said that Amazon is just an amazing search and logistics tool. (I would put in a link to this but I can’t find it. I swear I read that he said this).
The majority of readers would love a one stop shopping area for books with all the information that a reader needs in a handy search tool. I hear time and again that people would like one site with all the major publishers new release information. Mrs. Giggles correctly identifies that there are a number of ebook publishers that publish sweet and mainstream ebooks yet readers rarely visit those other sites, gravitating toward one or two because visiting a number of ebook sites is really too much of an effort for readers.
Both Samhain and Ellora’s Cave have made an effort to be more agnostic, but even they haven’t fully embraced true publisher independence like Tor has. A publisher has a great opportunity to do this with romance ebooks and become the Tor version of romance. Essentially become a voice of authority in romance.
I’m curious to see whether any romance publisher is ready to do this, ready to become publisher agnostic in direct sales to consumers? Another way that the publisher could capitalize on this is to sell its books at a discounted rate (because it would be a direct sale from the publisher) while offering the competitor’s books at retail. I think we readers are ready for something like this. Who will deliver it?