Three questions for…Kevin Franco of Enthrill

Brick-and-mortar stores can also be a purchase point for ebooks

This short interview with Kevin Franco of Enthrill is a preview to the Books in Browsers event this Thursday and Friday.  If you’re unable to attend the event be sure to follow along with the livestream offered right here on the TOC website.

1. Enthrill has a distribution program that puts ebooks into brick-and-mortar outlets. Doesn’t this seem counter-intuitive?

We’re in the business of selling books, brick & mortar stores are still the number one seller of books, so being there is completely intuitive.

No doubt, the easiest way to purchase an ebook is by using the ‘shop’ button on your ereading device. We’re not intending to change that at all. But the online model is flawed in some respects as it diminishes discoverability. Although being addressed through many metadata solutions, online discovery will never be as good as the tactile, visual discovery that physical retail stores can provide through merchandising and product placement in high traffic retail outlets.

One of the major flaws in the current online model are the silos that each device operates in, which limits transactions and interactions outside of the users relationship with that single retailer. Purchasing content outside of a silo is a challenge and as such one of the largest single areas of traditional book sales has been eliminated from the current equation: gifting. Until now, giving an ebook as a gift has been messy or non-existent between silos. Our device agnostic approach makes it easy for anyone to give an ebook to anyone.

Enthrill’s ebook gift cards target the gifting market and are merchandised in some of the highest retail traffic locations available in grocery and mass channel stores. As an extension of these stores’ gift card program, they offer something other gift cards don’t: the ability for consumers to make a personalized selection of a specific title to give vs. a generic dollar value card. This is what excites retailers most of all, that and the fact that Enthrill is classified as DLC (downloadable content), which is currently the fastest growing segment within the gift card industry.

Of course, being in high traffic locations will result in some additional discovery of titles, creating new touch points for publishers and in addition to gifting transactions will generate incremental impulse sales. That’s what brick and mortar has done so well for publishers for so many years. To sum up, we have built a new sales channel for publishers to get their content to market.

2. What can publishers and authors do to get the most out of Enthrill’s physical store ebook distribution?

Get involved. Publishers and authors that work with us in getting their best content into our system will maximize their ability to realize additional retail exposure and sales.

Enthrill has two main verticals in distributing content to the end user; the first is through the mass retail channel (ebooks to go) and the other is through our wholesale model (ebooks on demand) which services bulk, prepaid transactions where content producers handle the distribution (book fairs, special sales etc.)

In either vertical, we highly recommend that authors/publishers let their fan base know that their books are now available as ebook gift cards.

3. Do you have any data you can share with us about how successful your ebook distribution program has been to date?

We entered the market in June and began selling ebooks in 4 major retail chains as well as a handful of independent bookstores in Canada.

We have gathered a lot of data to date, some of which is very surprising such as our redemptions. Our Endpaper Engine serves content to every device, so we get to see what device types our users are reading on. The highest number of redemptions are being done through iOS devices (38.8%) which was a surprise. In fact, the redemptions do not match the market penetration of devices at all, we have some theories on why this is but are reserving our comments until we gather more in depth market research through focus groups and online surveys.

Our expectations was to see redemptions come slowly in as cards were gifted and redeemed well beyond purchase, but we were surprised to see a large number of cards being redeemed the same day as the purchase (15.1%), which tells us the impulse market is greater than what we imagined. We believe that our ebook gift card redemption will be very similar to that of the gift card industry with about 15% of cards never redeemed after 5 years.

The data we are collecting is very unique to the industry and is important in shaping our offering as we expand throughout North America over the next few months. We will be sharing more of this data at the Books in Browsers conference later this week.

Kevin Franco is co-founder and president of Enthrill.

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