Friday, July 20, 2012

Zola Books wants to partner with independent booksellers

Jeremy Greenfield of Digital Book World writes about Zola Books, a new eBook retailer that launched in beta shortly before this year's BEA. The company has raised $1.3 million from investors and plans to open its eBookstore to consumers on September 19th. Zola is offering eBook partnerships to American Booksellers Association members that have been selling eBooks through Google Books, but it's not clear whether Zola is under official consideration to replace Google by the ABA.

One ABA member, Katie Fransen of One More Page Books in Arlington, VA, said that the ABA eBook program was much too expensive. The ABA charged a monthly fee of around $200/month to program and maintain the store's website, and to act as a go-between with Google. Fransen, whose store has signed up for Zola's beta program, said that Google offered a very small percentage on sales to its independent bookstore partners. Zola, on the other hand, pays publishers 70% of each sale, and then splits the remaining 30% equally with its partners (Zola pays the 4% credit card transaction fee out of its share of the 30%.) It's a great deal for publishers, but it's significantly less than what most bookstores make on print sales. (Also, it's unclear what the business model truly is--Greenfield writes that Zola gives independent booksellers that run their own online stores 60% of the net proceeds from every sale, which, if net proceeds are measured after the publisher's share, would be a slightly better deal for booksellers.)

To date, Zola has signed up 48 bookstores for its beta test, and half of them have committed to use Zola when it launches in September, although the article says that the number of participating bookstores continues to change.
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