What Ebook Resellers Should Learn from Scribd

Scribd made a splash when they opened up a “Scribd Store” for selling view and download access to documents. Their terms (80% to the document publisher) are quite generous, though one reason publishers keep so much is that most of the merchandising (including pricing) is self service — Scribd could learn a lot from other media retailers if they’re interested in really promoting document sales.

But one area where existing ebook resellers could really learn from Scribd is in terms of data access and reporting. During one particularly frustrating conversation with an ebook reseller just last week, I learned that we’d be lucky to get sales reports nearly 6 weeks after any sales. These are digital sales. On the Web. Paid by credit card. No inventory to track, no shipping, no check or invoice processing.

Compare that to Scribd, where I get an email every time a document is sold telling me how much it sold for, and the total lifetime earnings for that document. I can also view a graph showing document views over time:

scribd graph

And every single day I get a detailed summary of document activity (this is a very small excerpt):

Here's your daily summary of what's happened with your Scribd account since
you last checked out the site.

      Someone liked your document entitled "Apache 2 Pocket Reference by O'Reilly Media"!
 7 minutes ago
      Someone liked your document entitled "JRuby Cookbook by O'Reilly Media"!
 7 minutes ago
      Someone liked your document entitled "Analyzing Business Data with Excel by O'Reilly Media"!
 31 minutes ago

Maria added your document "Tomcat: The Definitive Guide by O'Reilly Media" to their list of favorites

 39 minutes ago

There’s also quite a variety of reporting formats and interfaces in the wild among ebook resellers, meaning lots of time is spent by either IT staff or accounting staff (or both) parsing and processing each flavor of report. Though there is a Digital Sales Report format, I haven’t heard about any reseller actually using it (if you know of one, tell me in the comments).

Success on the Web requires nearly realtime analytics, and that’s one area of ebook retailing Scribd seems to really understand.

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