I caught a glimpse of the new “book futures” market on Day – 1 of the London Book Fair last Sunday. The pre-show Digital Conference was my “jet lag day,” that first day after an all-night Boston-to-London flight. Warm room, low lighting, comfortable chairs, it was tempting sometimes to try and listen to the presenters with eyes closed… but then came totally caffeinated Michael Tamblyn from Kobo, introduced as “the King of Powerpoint,” and suddenly our industry’s future manifested itself, accompanied by a kick of adrenalin. Sit up and listen!
This e-tailer’s e-books, or chunks therefrom, are sold and traded like stock market shares. The company starts each day with a full-company scrum, analyzing yesterday’s sales strategy, market activity, pricing, feedback, and together they set a course for the day’s business — how to price, how to chunk, whom to tweet, blog or email blast, which book products to repurpose where. Every cube is equipped with a screen suspended from the ceiling showing the company’s sales statistics, updated constantly.
They profile their customers, and it appears that middle-aged women reading romance novels on Kindles win in terms of regular revenue generation! Their customers fall into 3 categories: those on full-page reader devices like Kindle, small-screen customers with PDAs and iPhones (businesspeople and students?), and the free content surfers. Kobo monitors consumer behavior like a surfer monitors the weather — obsessively and with a calculating eye. What emerges is a new world of dynamic, real-time content access and exchange, building an environment quite unlike the quiet porch swings of yesteryear where, unrecorded, and in private, one could read an old paperback with a worn binding on a summer afternoon.