How Starbucks Can Become the Barnes & Noble of E-books

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With Barnes & Noble on the ropes, some may be worried their days of perusing for books surrounded by overstuffed chairs and overpriced coffee may be nearing an end. But this week’s launch of the Starbucks Digital Network (SDN) should put those fears to rest.

So what is SDN exactly? It’s a content and community portal that gives Starbucks hot-spot users access to free premium content  such as the Wall Street Journal and other news offerings, music and video, as well as access to a curated list of e-book samples from major publishers.  So far, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, Harper Collins, and New Word City have signed on, allowing access to the books in-browser using Skyshelf’s platform.

So, just how could Starbucks use this new network to become a force in e-book retailing?

Emphasize the social aspect of reading and book buying. If you don’t think reading is a social experience, you haven’t witnessed the rapid growth of book clubs. If Starbucks could create localized bestseller lists and recommendations for e-books, it could effectively create a social reading network connected to a 6,000-plus network of physical retail storefronts.

Integrate with multiple e-book storefronts. Most people will buy from one or two e-book storefronts; today SDN has a tie-in with iBooks, but if Starbucks could also partner with, say, Seattle neighbor Amazon to fuse its curated e-book channel to the Kindle store for purchase completion, it would create a highly powerful tandem and cut Starbucks in on quite a few more e-book purchase transactions.

Rewards and reinforcement. With some of retail’s most loyal and frequent customers, Starbucks would be remiss not to create reward and loyalty programs tied its content network. By giving credits towards e-book purchases for its “frequent fliers,” it can reinforce loyalty and likely incent digital content purchasing.

This only scratch the surface of what Starbucks can do in e-books. Who knows, in a few years we might see e-readers sold next to bags of coffee and Starbucks-only editions of e-books available through SDN. However, as we’ve seen, the company’s mixed results at content retailing means that there’s no guarantee it will use the comfy chairs and Pike Place blend to its full advantage.

Read the full post here.

Image Source: flickr user basykes

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