From an interview with Simon & Schuster’s “Chief Digital Officer” in Digital Book World:
Jeremy Greenfield: You told me that digital revenues at Simon & Schuster were 17% of the total in 2011 and you wouldn’t be surprised if that number doubled in 2012. What about by 2015?
Ellie Hirschhorn: I’ll hazard a guess, and it’s obviously a bit of a crap-shoot: I’d go a little higher than 50%. I think a lot of it will have to do with technology innovations and the ability of e-tailers to merchandise and promote discovery better.
JG: Simon & Schuster, along with Penguin and Hachette, is one of three big-six publishers that is backing Bookish (a book discovery and sales site). Why do you think Bookish will succeed?
EH: There is still room in the marketplace for a one-stop shop that promotes discovery of books from the best-seller list, the mid-list and the back-list.
There are a lot of interesting ways to promote browsing and discovery that will lead to e-commerce borrowing what’s happening in TV, film and music – in terms of lists and packaging of content.
There are great sites for commerce, great sites for reviews, great sites for community, but there is opportunity for a rolled-up, once-stop shop to integrate all these pieces, and to do it for both mobile and the Web and to be device-agnostic.
. . . .
JG: We did a survey last year with Forrester among publishers who said they would be spending more resources on developing those kinds of databases. James McQuivey of Forrester made a distinction for usbetween an email list and a true customer database with rich information that can be used to sell to a consumer. Which is yours?
EH: We have both email lists and customer databases. The easier thing to amass is limited information like your email. But we can also track your on-site behavior, your clicks on discrete pieces and assets in a newsletter. But the less information you ask of people, the higher your subscriber database will be.
Our database is comprised of people who subscribe to 13 different consumer newsletters and one that is based on format – you can choose between 20 different parameters and you get a customized newsletters with books for you.
The place that everyone wants to get to is a behavioral database where you can really dig deep. We have a number of online book clubs, one targeted to teens, one targeted at romance, and there they have to give us more information to be a member of these communities and to get samples and sneak peaks at content. The more you give the consumer as a reward for their information, the more rich data you’ll get.
Those 750,000 names, we know a fair amount about them. We’re able to send them messages that will be really targeted to their preferences. The more we’re on target, the more we’ll really engage with them.
. . . .
JG: We’ve talked a lot about marketing, sales and discoverability. Changing subjects, what is Simon & Schuster doing about e-books, enhanced e-books, apps, etc?
EH: We digitized the bulk of our back-list and have for four years now digitized all of our front-list [with some exceptions, like highly designed books]. That process started in [a centralized] digital group to get it off the ground, to get the kinks out. Once we got that stabilized, we transferred that into our regular production group. Now, having an e-book is part and parcel of the production process. It’s a department within production. We now have a holistic checklist for e-books as well as for print books and audio books.
. . . .
JG: Give me your crystal-ball view of the future for devices. What’s new and hot?
More, better and more affordable tablets is a big plus for the industry because it just means we’ve passed the early adapter stage and we’re into mainstream. Many of these tablets are being purchased for gaming and for videos and for web-browsing and that will help the entire marketplace grow as distribution expands.
On the horizon, there’s a second class of [book] e-tailers that are going to enter from software companies, OEMs [original equipment manufacturers like Samsung and HTC], and other categories of sellers and agents.
JG: Verizon will sell books?
Yes, and maybe the hardware manufacturers will also sell books. One of Bookish’s priorities will be to be device agnostic.
Link to the rest at Digital Book World
Passive Guy is exceptionally underwhelmed by the ideas Ellie shared.
Read the whole thing to see if PG is wrong, but this all feels like a wheels and cogs in a big old-fashioned corporation to him. Samsung and Verizon selling books is worst idea he’s heard all week. He sees zero chance of these folks giving Amazon a run for its money.