Eagle Harbor Hosts Community Conversation on E-books

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Staff members at Eagle Harbor Book Company in Bainbridge Island, Washington, recently hosted a forum to introduce customers to the range of e-book formats available through its IndieCommerce website. The store’s goal was to shed light on the available e-book platforms and to assure readers that there is a place for e-books in the independent bookselling community.

Eagle Harbor has been selling e-books for a few years, said bookseller Ellyn Russo. The first e-books were in PDF form, but, she noted, the store website now offers e-books in Microsoft Reader format (which can be read on any Windows-based device) and EPUB (an open format usable on many different e-readers, including the iPad, the Sony Reader, and on smart phones, such as the iPhone and Android).

The Eagle Harbor event drew about 25 people, who “seemed genuinely interested in finding out different ways they can use their e-reader to work with independent bookstores,” said Russo. Among the attendees were members of the industry: an employee of Adobe, who wasn’t there as a representative of the company, but who spoke as a knowledgeable civilian; a staff member from another local independent bookstore; the “digital liaison” from a nearby Barnes & Noble; and a staff member of the local library.

All of the forum attendees were eager to learn, said Russo, and they did not come to the event expecting to be pressured to purchase the store’s products. Those attending were interested in e-readers that the store could stand behind and sell, said Paul Hansen, a manager at Eagle Harbor.

Hansen posted a thread on Bookweb’s Bookseller-to-Bookseller discussion forum to share details about the event with other ABA members. He began by writing, “In a nutshell: it could not have gone better.” During the approximately 90-minute discussion, store staff stayed on message, he said, and among their key talking points were:

  • Customers can buy locally on the store's website with any e-reader except a Kindle.
  • The store's selection of e-books will expand mightily with the launch of Google Editions.
  • Eagle Harbor is working hard to embrace these technological changes.

To prepare for the event, Russo explained that she and the rest of the store’s E-book Task Force experimented with different types of e-books and compatible devices. Then, the Task Force compiled a packet to distribute among attendees, based on their experience. Included were:

  • An offer to send a $10 gift certificate to customers for their first e-book purchase of more than $10
  • An article explaining what Google Editions is
  • “My E-book Download Experience,” by Ellyn Russo
  • An E-reader FAQ, compiled by the store
  • A price comparison for two titles, including hardcover and e-book prices set by the publisher, the e-book price on the Eagle Harbor website, and the current e-book prices on BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com

People in the community did their research too,” said Russo, “and that really helped formulate the discussion.”

Forum participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and many expressed an interest in finding out how to download e-books from the Eagle Harbor website. The level of interest at the first forum has prompted Eagle Harbor to make plans to hold regular e-book meetings to keep customers updated on advances in the industry. Additionally, the store will be holding a “Technology Petting Zoo” next week at the local library to “reach a larger audience, continue the conversation, and allow more people to get their hands on these new technologies,” said Hansen.

It’s a very interesting technology and it seems like we’ve been getting more interest in e-books lately,” said Russo. “People are calling and asking how they can work with us.”

Watch for continuing e-book coverage and new resources, including an FAQ, in upcoming editions of BTW.