Tor.com, the Web home of the science/speculative fiction and fantasy publisher Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, has announced it will sell books from other publishers in its online store. Paper and hardcovers. No mention of e-books, though Fiction Matters reports the Tor.com store will soon launch an e-book sales effort—12 Edgar Rice Burroughs titles sold through the site come with free e-books packaged with a CD version of the book.
According to Compete.com, Tor.com sees about 30,000 visitors a month, well off its October 2008 highs of near 60,000 visitors (publishing is a cyclical business, even online). The site is well populated with bloggers’ writing that is a dead-on fit for its audience.
It can’t hurt to sell more titles to actively engaged customers. I’d still like to see the thinking turned inside out: How can Tor.com put its listings anywhere, extending access to its blog and feature content from a customer’s site. Think widgets and Web services to amplify the returns on this move. And publishers adding their books to the catalog need to be comfortable with Tor competing with other channels, so that they can embrace the Tor customer as their own (which means serving them, not “controlling the customer”).
Being open is the right move. No publisher should be thinking of their online catalog as anything other than a partial response to a reader’s interests. Catalogs are not what they were in the age of book-buyers thumbing through catalogs, they need to be accessible and responsive to changing reader actions in the marketplace.