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Friday, July 27, 2012

Scrappy New E-Bookseller Tries to Take on Amazon with Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

Posted by Paul Constant on Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 10:14 AM

I was extremely disappointed when Google pulled out of its e-book selling partnership with independent bookstores. Now, it looks like someone is preparing to step into that market.

Founded in September 2011, Zola will offer readers a social e-reader and bookstore, independent bookstores a new place to sell e-books, and publishers another storefront to display their wares. When it launches to the public on September 19, the company plans to make a splash, offering readers a sizable selection of e-books, including titles that will only be available on Zola....Zola allows each independent bookstore to create its own storefront that it curates with titles it thinks its readers will like. Each bookseller is responsible for marketing their storefront but the proceeds could be worth it. Zola will pay independent bookstores 60% of net proceeds from every sale.

I think some of Zola's goals are very smart. I like that they're not allowing self-published authors into their store yet, because a glut of self-published books would make their bookstore look cheap and dumb and disreputable. But Zola is leaning heavily into the social experience of reading, and I'm frankly not sure anymore if anybody really wants a social reading experience.

I like the idea of a Netflix-like recommendation system, and I really like the fact that booksellers can shape the e-bookstore to reflect their own store's tastes—Google's e-bookstore is the definition of no-frills, with a serious lack of personality—but I also want to make sure that the books I buy don't get locked into some DRM-ed up nightmare of a system. Someone can make a lot of money by employing the army of smart booksellers to "hand"sell their e-books for them, and it sounds like Zola might be the company to do it.


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