Is IRex’s eBook Mall the Kindle-Killer?

“We’re saying, you promote your product, you price your product, you format and deliver your product in the way that you want to and you’ll enter into a 1-to-1 relationship with your customer. We’ll facilitate that and we’ll take a piece of the revenue. We don’t want to stand in between the customer and the publisher, if you want to cross sell or upsell or cross market or do other things with your customer, it’s your customer.”

Kevin Hamilton, North American CEO, IREX Technologies, IRex’s Hamilton Details Plans For Publishers; NewspaperDirect, News Stand, Storefronts

Among the various digital solutions on display at the Frankfurt Book Fair last week, the new IRex Digital Reader, an intriguing competitor to the Kindle, stood out for its “eBook Mall”, which could be the killer app for publishers in search of a direct-to-consumer sales channel for eBooks.

While details (and partners) are scarce at this point, the idea is that publishers will be able to set up their own storefronts on the IRex platform and sell their ebooks directly to consumers, with a more favorable revenue share promised than Amazon’s 70/30 split. IRex also has a white label option, potentially enabling publishers (or organizations?) to brand the digital reader themselves and offer subsidized pricing via bundles or subscriptions.

While an intriguing possiblity, the underlying challenge for publishers is that most don’t currently have a direct relationship with their readers, nor do they have the marketing infrastructure in place to effectively leverage the opportunities a branded ereader device might offer.

One of the most anticipated sessions at Digital Book World 2010 is the Selling Direct to the Consumer: Risks and Rewards and the Best Practices for Publishers, that will address the “Pandora’s Box of challenges” that come with effectively going into competition with their best retailer customers. How can publishers sell direct and still maintain good relationships with their trading partners? What are the best practices for pricing and merchandising?

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