retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that “three leading book publishers are developing a website to sell physical and digital titles directly to consumers in a bid to widen the distribution of books as the number of bookstores in the U.S. continues to decline.”

The story says that the new site, called Bookish, is “scheduled to launch this summer. The site will allow consumers to recommend books to friends and access a wide array of information about authors and titles ... Consumers will be able to buy books directly through Bookish and will be able to download titles to some mobile devices, though the venture hasn't yet determined which ones will be compatible with the site.”
KC's View:
One can only imagine these publishers walking down the streets of Manhattan, muttering to themselves, “I love the smell of disintermediation in the morning...it smells of victory.” Or at least, survival.

Here’s what I think is the interesting passage from the Journal piece:

“For publishers, helping consumers discover new works is growing more urgent because the number of bookstores where they can discover new titles is declining. Retailers like Amazon.com are capturing a growing share of printed and digital book sales, raising fears among publishers that sales are being consolidated in too few hands.”

In other words, suppliers want to be more aggressive about mitigating the influence and power of retailers, which are defined as middle men getting between the manufacturer and the consumer.

What this means is not so much that retailers ought to be afraid of manufacturers, but that they need to be better and more innovative retailers, and perhaps even better partners to manufacturers. (Of course, in venues where things like slotting allowances exist, that might mean getting rid of traditional revenue-generating schemes that only get in the way of really serving and understanding the consumer.)

Now, if I’m Amazon.com, I’m not sure I’d be hugely worried about this, because I’m so much more than just a book retailer. Still, the initiative is interesting...