Target has sold books and eBook readers in their stores for years, and now they are sticking a very tentative toe into the world of selling digital books. No, you won’t be heading to Target.com for your next eBook (yet), but they are partnering with new website Librify, which is a social network/eBook subscription service coming this summer.
Right now Librify is invite-only, but it seems like someone threw “Book of the Month Club” and Goodreads in a blender, and this service is the result. You pay a monthly subscription fee, you get one free book and discounts on other books; there are also virtual book clubs and other social options between members. The service is invite-only, and if we can wrangle an invite, you’ll see a full overview. In the meantime, the company is very tight-lipped about pricing, eBook format, and even selection, so it’s hard to comment on the future success of the service.
More interesting is that Target is their “official retail partner” according to the press release. It’s hard to see what retail partnership is needed for a digital book company, but I can think of a few ideas. One, presumably Target will be the affiliate link for anyone who wants to buy a paper copy instead of reading the eBook. Two, they may use Librify to cross promote books online and in-store. Finally, I could see Target preinstalling Librify on tablets, maybe as a “Target exclusive” type promotion. Plus, this way Target gets a ton of potential benefit and experience in eBooks for what is likely a relatively small investment — if this takes off, great, and if it fails then Target learns more about the eBook market and gathers intel for any future book endeavors.
Barnes and Noble should be sweating very hard right now. Target is a retail partner of theirs that sells Nooks currently, but this partnership is an indication they may be looking for more opportunities elsewhere. On top of that, B&N doesn’t have the resources to compete if Target decided to muscle into the eBook market, even if their online store was like their physical ones and focused heavily on best sellers, kids, and cookbooks.
This also feels a bit like Target is trying to feel-out whether they can compete against the world building Amazon is doing. The social aspect of Librify sounds vaguely similar to Goodreads, which is now an Amazon property. It remains to be seen if this is anything other than an opportunistic partnership that Target figured was worth a shot in the dark, but it’s certainly interesting that they wanted to be involved at all. Librify sounds like a new twist on the subscription eBook services popping up, and hopefully we will have more to cover about them soon!