Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

November 2, 2010

One Big Question I Have About eBooks

Today I had a bookselling first: a customer asked me if we could sell him an ebook.  I knew the answer was “no”, but upon further reflection I realized I have no idea how we would even go about doing such a thing.  So I’m gonna ask the crowd to field this one.  Please help your friendly local luddite-cum-indy-bookseller here.

Can I sell ebooks? I mean, can any old indy bookseller even sell ebooks?  Are these just products publishers produce strictly for device sellers?  When we talk about “going to ebooks” are we actually saying “all future bookselling will be done by electronic gadget manufacturers?”

When I look through a publisher’s catalogue, they often give ebook ISBNs.  Who can order those?  What gets delivered to a bookstore (or chain) when they order that ISBN?  Does one need special hardware to sell ebooks?  I mean, how are these things delivered anyway?  Does one need a dedicated server to store them?  Does one ever have them in “inventory” at all?  Does one need a machine that prints out codes?

What format does an ebook come in? I gather each reader, unwisely but true, has its own format thus far.  What format would a bookseller get the ebook in? Can I sell both to Kindle users and to Kobo users?  What format does the ebook ISBN refer to?  Do publishers produce separate pdf & Kindle editions?  Has anyone ever noted any textual difference between them?

Can a customer “return” an ebook the way they could a real book?  Well, can they?

Wow, I really need an ebook 101.


2 thoughts on “One Big Question I Have About eBooks”

  1. steph says:

    We’re in the process of looking into selling e-books, and I think at least Penguin is looking into setting up that service for us or they are already offering it…? We’ll still sell printed books but for those diehards who insist on buying only electronic, we’re thinking this is one more option to help sales.

    I don’t think they can return them but I am about as schooled as you are. I just know it’s a possibility and that we’re looking into doing it.

    I think what happens is that when you order those ISBNs from the catalogue they are downloaded to your inventory and you can sell them online; so customers simply use paypal or credit or whatever and download the book (I think). Sales then register in your inventory as they normally would with printed books. I’m not certain if you can sell them in the store at the cash register.

    As for your last para of questions, I’m not sure!

    Do you guys have a website?

  2. steph says:

    PS. Our inventory is BookManager. Do you use that as well?

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