Currently there are two and possibly three options for bookshops that would like to sell ebooks.

My personal view is that ebooks could work for independent bookshops but need to be listed beside the ebook and be one click to buy and read, the customer information and sales history should also stay with and be private to the bookshop.

We are a long way from this with the current offerings and the economics don’t look good but there is least a place to start now for those the want to.

The three providers I have talked to are Copia, Readcloud and Bookish/Overdrive. Copia and Readcloud have similar approaches, you install their reader app on your device. Bookish now owned by Overdrive is quite different in that their reader runs inside the browser which makes getting going for customers easy (no reader install needed) and gets around Adobe DRM hurdles. Ingram and Gardner’s are other possibilities that I have not been able to look into.
In a web world the Bookish approach looks better but at this point they do not have an offering for retailers but this may change particularly if there was a large enough interested group.

The Deal

At this stage Copia and Readcloud seem to be the only immediate possibilities. The exact deal and what a bookshop will get at the end is very hard to work out. Following is my best effort…
75% of ebook sales are in the $5 – $10 range (Peter Haasz – Bookish) so I have used $8 for these calculations. Based on this a book shop will get between 40 cents to $1.40 per sale depending on who covers the DRM and credit card fees.

I have to reiterate that this is a very fluid situation where a few cents make a big percentage difference. For example Copia indicated that they may also be able to cover credit card and DRM fees. The aim of this is to make a start on trying to make the deal more clear.

All up there is very little in this for bookshops due to the very large percentage taken by publishers. ebooks are fantastic for publishers, the 70% bench mark has been set by Apple, Google and Amazon (who want to take over the book trade) and the likes of Copia and Readcloud have had to follow this. Publishers would probably argue that they have the same production costs on a lower value base so need a higher percentage.

User experience

I strongly urge you to try to buy a book through each of these providers on your device (ipad or android tablet). I tried on my android phone and found both to be difficult. The Copia app didn’t actually run but that was a few months ago and both assured me that new versions were coming out in August. It might be better now and on a tablet. The difficulty on the Readcloud app was getting an Adobe ID (Adobe don’t make this easy). With Copia when I went to buy a book from the reader I was taken back to a website that didn’t work well on a phone and where I had to login again. It was a bit disjoint. All up I think everyday customers would struggle.

Again it maybe much better now and I may have missed things so do try it yourself.

Step 1. Search in the app market on your device for Copia or Readcloud.
Step 2. Once installed have a go at buying and reading a book

And or once installed go to one of these sites buy and book have a go at reading it
Copia –
Readcloud –

Setup options – white label vs data feed
Both providers offer a white label option this is a stand alone site that does it all for you. If you have an existing site that you want to retain then you would link the two together.

Linking two sites together works but is not ideal, it is better for customers to have everything in one place. Both providers are offering data exports, this is were we pull in a copy of their data and display it in your site with your existing titles and information. This is not a small job for us though and there are still details to work out around APIs and billing. With the Copia data feed there would be a $1000 setup and a $1500 per year ongoing fee.

There maybe potential to implement the data feed option once for the whole Circle user group which might make it more affordable for all of us.