Web dev at the end of the world, from Hveragerði, Iceland

My kingdom for a new bookstore

Specifially, a new bookstore app.

I wrote about this idea ages ago but it bears repeating:

Amazon’s print book business is more vulnerable to competition than its ebook business.

Amazon’s middling mobile ecommerce apps represent an opportunity for competitors to innovate:

  • Apple Pay for apps.
  • Location awareness.
  • Better UX.
  • And features that are specific to print books.

Amazon isn’t going to add features to its apps that are specific to print books now that it has become the Walmart of the internet.

For example, you could build an ecommerce app with built-in library management (and barcode scanning) for all of the customer’s print books and use the customer’s existing library for recommendations and alerts.

“I see that you have most of Georgette Heyer’s books in your library, do you want to buy the rest?"

“I see that you are a fan of Michael Moorcock, do you want to be notified when he releases a new book?"

There’s also less lock-in for print than for ebooks. Your library of print books bought from Amazon isn’t dependent on an app from Amazon. Anybody can scan barcodes.

Print is still a decent sized biz and as it declines a startup could make a lot of money while using it to build a general ecommerce infrastructure.

You know, Amazon’s very own playbook.

There are quite a few existing attempts at building print ecommerce stores but they all suffer from the same flaws:

  • Nonexistent or crap app.
  • Rubbish mobile website.
  • They try to appeal to the buyer’s sense of justice (bwahahahahaha).
  • They work with indie retailers.

That last point may well be controversial but one of the few things that’s worse for a startup than partnering with large slow-moving behemoths is a horde of small slow-moving partners.

The large ones are, unfortunately, a non-negotiable part of being an ecommerce startup. You need all of the larger publishers and distributors. The small ones? The benefits of working with them are hypothetical while the cost is very real.

Somebody out there go and build this. I need a new outlet for my print book habit.

Of course, there’s nothing preventing Amazon from releasing a specialised app for print books. Except maybe the fact that they already own print sales and a new app wouldn’t create growth opportunities for them. It isn’t in Amazon’s DNA to spend money and resources on building something from scratch that has such a small upside for them.

Anyway, idle Friday thoughts. Make of it what you will.

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