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This means war: Foyles now selling ebooks

Sticking an ever so dignified and respectable two fingers up at Amazon, beloved London bookseller Foyles has this week launched an ebook store and accompanying apps. The venerable, iconic independent chain – with five branches in London and one in Bristol, for the more adventurous metropolitan – already has over 200,000 titles on offer, which is presumably more than are contained even in its flagship five-floored Charing Cross Road shop.

The shop provides a series of free to download apps through the estore that allow its ebooks to be read on Apple and Android devices, making access to the books, in the words of c.e.o. Sam Husain, ‘as easy as possible, without the added expense of having to buy new hardware.’ Android users can also buy books from the estore directly through their app, but Apple’s strict control-freakery – the same neuroticism that keeps you from being able to check out stupid cat videos on YouTube on your iPad – means you can browse on your phone but have to get yourself to a real computer to download anything.

Whilst you can then transfer your purchases to your phone or iPad, Amazon’s similarly paranoid restrictions (notice a trend here amongst the megaliths?) mean that you won’t be able to read anything you buy from Foyles on a Kindle. Conversely, Foyles are offering a free ‘My eBooks’ service that allows users to store every ebook they own – regardless of provenance – in one place online, accessible anywhere with an internet connection.

This is all encouraging news on several fronts. For one thing, it signals a willingness amongst emergent ebook retailers to engage in more open and inclusive practices than Amazon has demonstrated so far. For another, it positions Foyles as a viable alternative to Amazon, one with over a century of experience in bookselling with an established customer base who may be willing to follow it where a Kindle couldn’t lead them. Most of all, though, the comparatively slight overheads of an ebook operation mean that all profits can be channelled back towards maintaining their brick and mortar shops for those who still enjoy getting lost amongst the stacks. Win-win-win.

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Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.

Comments (2)

  • Thanks for your interesting post.
    Some thoughts that spring to mind:
    >> Given the inexorable trend away from printed books towards E-books surely Foyles would be better advised to put any E-book profits towards increasing the size of their E-library or reducing conversion costs.
    >> E-book competition is good for the consumer and this move should surely help drive down prices. Of course the Kindle books can be read on any device too and they have circa 800,000 books to choose from + newspapers/magazines/blogs

    • Well, of course the ebook profits are Foyles’ to spend however they see fit. I’m not saying that the profits are only going towards maintaining brick and mortar shops, just that speaking as someone who still prefers print it’s nice to know they have a couple of sources of income that can combine to fund anything Foyles wants to do under their own banner.

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