Book 'Em, Danno

Australian book e-tailers are still confident of success, despite the recent travails of giants Amazon and Barnesandnoble.com.

Peter Knock, marketing manager of Dymocks, shrugged off the overseas trends, attributing layoffs to consolidation and businesses being tailored in order to reach profitability. Knock believes that Australia is a different marketplace to the US in terms of e-tailing and, in particular, e-commerce for books.

Similarly, Rafael Chavan de Montero, chief executive of OzBooks.com, agrees that "each market follows its own pattern", and although there will be some similarities between the US and Australian experiences, success or failure of online booksellers will largely be determined by the business strategies employed by companies.

Considering that internet revenue makes up less than 5 per cent of Dymocks' total business in terms of sales, Knock said that the website has been operating merely on a customer-service basis since its inception. By keeping a handle on the speed at which the site has grown, as well as fostering a mindset that views the web as just "another channel of distribution", Knock believes that Dymocks has been able to achieve steady and continuing growth since its inception.

Despite this conservative approach to online growth, Dymocks is regularly quoted in the top 10 sites visited by Australian consumers. Knock attributes this popularity to both consumer confidence in the Dymocks brand name, as well as speed of fulfilment and stock available through its mammoth store in George Street, Sydney.

Even though fellow book e-tailer OzBooks.com doesn't have the luxury of having the largest bookstore in Australasia to rely on for stock, Chavan de Montero is optimistic about the future of online bookselling in Australia. That is, of course, if people start treating it as a business.

"The internet is nothing more than a business, and like all businesses, some succeed, some fail," he said. "The fact that so many are failing in the US, and so many have failed here, is because so many started without a strong base."

Both agree that the key to success is viewing the internet in its proper context. Knock believes that the web should be seen as nothing more than an "excellent marketing tool", while Chavan de Montero has similar words of wisdom. "A lot of stores have run it like a website and not like a business," he said. "A website is a tool, not a business concept."

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