Dymocks Dives In

Australian bookseller Dymocks has apparently embraced the idea of ebooks. On Wednesday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on the launch of its Digital Books initiative. According to the smh,

Digital touch screen kiosks have been installed in the Dymocks flagship store at 428 George Street in Sydney to market the ebook range and teach customers how to download them. Within months people will be able to walk into the store with a memory card and buy ebooks directly from the kiosk

So, I checked it out on Thursday. And was a little disappointed by the kiosk solution. It seems that the teething problems still require some attention. What did I see? A few sleek white kiosks with touch screens, many with letters that were misaligned (push ‘b’ and get ‘h’). One kiosk with windows notepad on the screen, complete with a list of what appeared to be required bug fixes. (Some tech keeping notes handy, I guess). And actually searching the database was disappointing. It was ‘live’ search, and just didn’t work. Subcategories weren’t functioning and the entire catalog seemed way too short. All of which is entirely forgiveable and fixable, even if it should have been working properly two days after a splashy launch.

What’s less clear is how Dymocks intends to actually use the kiosks. There were no real information for lay-folk – those who, for example, didn’t happen to own a device which read mobipocket, microsoft reader or adobe reader files. Maybe it’s assumed that ebook users are sufficiently geeky to get through all the software/format/device problems for themselves.

Strangely, the only devices on sale were ipods. Go figure. Sure the ipod touch will one day make a fantastic ebook reading device, but not right now, and not – especially for the file formats that Dymocks sells – without some hacking. And all the other ipods require you to reformat text to suit their notes readers. All of which is way too geeky for bookshop customers.

I suspect they’re going to be as successful as the Sanity digital music kiosks that were released a couple of years ago. From a c|Net article at the time:

The Fast Track Kiosks will store more than 400,000 songs each. Customers will be able to create their own playlists using the kiosks, with tracks sold at AU$1.69 each or AU$16.99 for an album

Bottom line. Why go to a book/music store to download digital content when part of the appeal of that digital content is not having to go to a book/music store in the first place?

Of course, the kiosks may be just to generate publicity for the website, which I haven’t really explored yet. I’ll have a look at what they’ve done there and get back to you soon…

The Dymocks website now stocks about 120,000 electronic books – ebooks – that can be downloaded and read on a computer, mobile phone or other handheld device.

Of course, with Amazon a breath away from entering the fray, all bets are off…

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4 comments so far

  1. Darcy on

    Just finished your book; I thought it a nice summary of the state of play and ’embrace’ is the write word.

    Are you aware that Wikipedia is now set as a HSC text?

    BTW Your link about the ‘kiosks’ is broken.

  2. shermanfyoung on

    Thanks Darcy. Didn’t know about wikipedia. How are students asked to engage with it?

    Oh – I think I’ve fixed the link. Cheers for letting me know.

    Sherman

  3. Michael Garas on

    Hi Sherman,

    Let me start by saying thanks for your interest in Dymocks Digital Books. It has been a 30 month project which has finally come to fruition, but it really is just the first chapter in Dymocks push to embrace the digital age. As with any project, there have been teething problems, but we are working on these to ensure that they are short term – hopefully, as you say, they will be forgivable too.

    In the first stages, the kiosks will be used as an educative tool providing customers with the opportunity to learn about digital and audible books in store – assisted by Dymocks staff. Once perceptions around digital rights management for books progress (as they have for music), the kiosks will provide an interface for downloading of digital and audible books direct to customer devices instore.

    “Bottom line. Why go to a book/music store to download digital content …?”
    We are hoping to bring digital and audible content to our customers and a broader audience, and what better place to expose our customers to this than via kiosks … instore.

    We hope you enjoy our new website.

    Michael Garas

  4. shermanfyoung on

    Michael

    Thanks for the comments. I look forward to seeing how your initiative goes – and what your e-reader strategy ends up being 🙂


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