Where are the Christian eBook Stores?

The sale of ebooks continues to grow. Publishers report that ebook sales rose another 252 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

Steve Haber, the head of Sony’s e-reader division has stated that he believes that within five years there will be more digital content sold than physical content.

With this type of exponential ebook growth, where are the Christian ebook stores? I did not know of any, so I decided to investigate.

Since there are a large number of online bookstores dedicated to selling just Christian print books, I thought I should first check to see how many of these stores carried ebooks. I was hard pressed to find any.

All the major online bookstores such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders sell ebooks alongside their print books. Yet, the largest online retailer of Christian books, Christian Book Distributors, does not yet offer ebooks.

Next, I thought I should check the websites for the largest Christian chain retailers (since they also host book sales on their websites) to see how many were selling ebooks. They all sold audio books. But, only two out of the top six Christian chain stores are currently selling ebooks: Family Christian and Cokesbury. Both these stores have a very limited selection.

Lastly, I checked to see if there were any online stores dedicated to selling just ebooks. There are many online ebook stores for the general market (most of which also carry Christian titles) such as FictionWise, eReader.com, ebooks.com, and CyberRead. Yet, I could not find one on-line bookstore dedicated to just Christian ebooks.

So I ask, how come the Christian market has not embraced the sale of ebooks the way the secular market has?

Traditionally, the Christian marketplace has lagged behind the secular marketplace. There has been a gap of three to five years between the trends in the secular market and the Christian market.

It appears the same trend is being played out with the creation, distribution, and sales of Christian ebooks.

Which leads me to think about a Christian ebook distributor? Thus far, other than Ingram (which is a secular distributor with a Christian division), neither of the largest Christian book distributors, STL nor Anchor, have begun to distribute ebooks.

Hopefully, they will soon. But do they first need stores to sell the ebooks to? This brings up the question of what comes first: the chicken or the e-egg?

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Try This On for Marketing Your Books

Have you authored a book, but not yet mastered the art of promoting it in everyday conversation?

Here is a little tool that could help.

It’s a Bookhanger Neck Chain.

Yep, you heard right. Now you can turn your latest book into a fashion statement and wear it around your neck.

Wearing one of these will certainly draw attention to your book. It should be a conversation starter for you in public. Outgoing people will ask you about your book necklace.

On the other hand, some people may just stare at you and wonder what in the world you are thinking.

Bookhanger Neck Chains can be purchased for $33 a piece. They are made of chain, leather, or a multicolored string and come in three lengths: small, medium, and large. These necklaces are available for purchase on Ooga Booga. Just click here.

If you purchase one of these necklaces to wear your book, send me a picture featuring you wearing your book on a Bookhanger Neck Chain and I just might feature it on this blog.

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Two Marketing Lessons Learned in a Verizon Store

Those of us in the book industry often fall into the trap of thinking that everyone is familiar with what we are familiar with. I don’t think this just applies to the book industry; I think it’s a human trait.

For instance, consider the Kindle. I have heard and read so much about the Kindle in the past couple of years that I fell into the trap of thinking the average person on the street who loved books would know about the Kindle. I recently found out this is not the case.

The other day, I was in a Verizon store getting some assistance with my cell phone account. The young lady who waited on me was very polite and friendly. We got to talking and she told me how she loved to read. She mentioned that she purchased at least two books a week to feed her reading habit.

Then she pulled out a postcard-sized advertisement for the Nook and said to me, “Have you heard of this? I think it’s really cool and I’m thinking of getting one.”

I told her that I had indeed heard of Barnes & Noble’s Nook. I asked her if she knew that Amazon had a similar e-reader called the Kindle. This young lady did not know that there were other e-reader options. A friend had recently given her the advertisement she showed me and this was the only e-reader she was familiar with.

I walked out of the Verizon store thankful that I had been reminded of two important lessons:

1. Not everyone is familiar with what I am familiar with.

I often wonder when a new small publisher signs up for membership with Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) how they became familiar with our organization. Some tell me, others don’t. On the other hand, I am sometimes surprised when I run into a publisher who I think should know about CSPA, and they have never heard of our organization.

Just because someone loves books does not mean they know all the major bookstores or are familiar with the major online book review sites. Just because someone is an ardent fans of Christian fiction does not mean they have heard about your Christian fiction books.

This is why marketing must be a never-ending activity for publishers and authors. There are always more people who need to be introduced to your books.

2. Person-to-person marketing is the most effective.

I am certain that this sales lady had been on Amazon.com and had the Kindle pop up on the home page. Most likely she just did not notice it or ignored it in pursuit of what she knew she was looking for. Yet, when a friend handed her information about the Nook, she began to think about how purchasing one would save her money on her book purchases in the long run. She even began to seriously consider purchasing one.

We live in an era of information overload. Seeing an ad for a product or service will most likely not engage us until we have a reason to become engaged with that ad. I see hundreds of banner ads everyday on the Internet. I ignore almost all of them. I can’t even tell you what many of them are for.

In the age of information overload connecting with people is more important than shouting about your book or product. You can’t out-shout the other ads. Connection is the key. Use the opportunities you are presented every day to connect with the people you cross paths with both in-person and online to promote your books.

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Wasted Trailers

The first annual Moby Awards for the best and worst in book trailers recently announced their winners.

One of the award categories was “Least Likely Trailer to Sell the Book.” The winner of this award went to Sounds of Murder by Patricia Rockwell. The video has since been removed from YouTube (I guess the author wasn’t happy about the award).

I personally think that the following book video should have been nominated and should have won the “Least Likely Trailer to Sell the Book” in the Moby Awards.

While this trailer has received over 500 views on YouTube, the book has not yet garnered one review on Amazon.com. The author went to some trouble to put together a book video. Too bad he hasn’t made the effort to find just one of his friends to post a review on Amazon.

Self-published authors, take a few lessons from this author’s missteps.

First, make sure your book has an awesome cover design that draws a potential reader to it. Your book cover is one of your most important marketing tools.

Second, make sure you have some friends who are willing to post reviews of your book on the major online bookstores such as Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

Third, don’t let your book’s promotional video be eligible to win the “Least Likely Trailer to Sell the Book” category in the Moby Awards.

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Ogled by Google

Over the past decade, Google has digitized thousands of books with or without the copyright holders’ permission. This led to the Authors Guild, along with the American Publishers Association, suing Google. Out of this lawsuit came the Google Book Settlement, This settlement has not yet been approved by the courts.

Now Google has announced that they will begin selling ebooks this summer (either in June or July).

This raises a number of questions in my mind.

Google says that users will be able to purchase digital copies of books they discover through Google’s book search service. Isn’t this the very same database that features books involved in the lawsuit that has not yet been settled?

Google has also stated that they will assign ISBN numbers to their Google Edition ebooks. Does this mean that they will sell ebook versions of all the books in their database with or without the rights holders’ permission?

Since the Google Book Settlement has not yet been approved by the court, Google does not have to follow it. Does this mean that Google will start selling those books covered under the Google Book Settlement in ebook format without paying the rights holders?

In the Google Book Settlement (section 4.5.i), it states “Google shall pay to the Registry, on behalf of the Rights holders, the Standard Revenue Split for Purchases. The “Standard Revenue Split for Purchases,” paid by Google to Rights holders, through the Registry, is seventy percent (70%) of Net Purchase Revenues.”

The Books Right Registry has not yet been founded, since the Google Book Settlement has not yet been approved. The purpose of the Books Right Registry is to collect and disburse revenue from third party users of content (Google) to authors, publishers, and other rights holders. Since it does not exist, how can Google make payment to the Registry for ebooks it is selling, so that the Registry will pay the rights holder?

Google has also announced that third-party retailers can sell Google Edition ebooks. They say that when Google sells the e-book directly from their website, “publishers” will get 63 percent of the revenue and Google will keep the rest. When a third-party retailer sells the e-book, the “publisher” will get 45 percent, and the retailer will get “most of the remaining 55 percent.”

63 percent? 45 percent? What about the 70 percent written in the not-yet-approved Google Book Settlement?

I am so confused. If any of you have any information that would shed light on this subject, please share it with me and the other readers of this blog.

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