Is Target's E-book Club a Shot at Amazon?

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The company that let sensitive data for millions of customers be ripped out of its computer systems last year now wants to be a supplier of an online book buying, sharing and discussion subscription service. The cost for the program, which is being run in a partnership with start-up e-book subscription service Librify, is $8.99 a month.

Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) has already begun testing the program and plans to roll out the Librify service later this year, according to a report at USA Today. Subscribers receive “access” to a recommended book every month plus discounts of 10% to 20% on all other e-books in Librify’s library of 500,000 e-books. That is about half the number of e-books available through Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) for its Kindle reader.

Few details on the program are available, but it’s a relatively safe bet that Target and Librify will toe the publisher’s line regarding the price split with publishers. Amazon is currently in a dispute with Hachette Book Group over book pricing. Details of this dispute are also scarce, but it seems like a safe bet is that Amazon wants to maintain its so-called wholesale model, where it buys books from the publishers at a discounted price and then sells the books for whatever price the online retailer chooses. Amazon is very likely seeking an even bigger discount from the publishers than it already gets, and the company has taken to making its point by restricting availability of Hachette titles.

Hachette — and the other publishers — want to follow an agency model, wherein the publishers set the retail price of the book. Failing at that, they will be reluctant to give a bigger discount to Amazon. Eventually they may have no choice.

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Target and Librify likely believe they can pick up some sales and become a player in the e-book world. There are many reasons why that’s a very unlikely outcome, but here are a couple.

Do you think of books — or especially e-books — when you think of Target? Didn’t think so.

USA Today notes that the book club will be targeted at women, “especially young professionals and moms of the coveted Millennial generation.” Do you wonder if the same books will appeal to young professional women who are also moms and to those who are not? Which group is larger? Does either Target or Librify know? Does anyone know? Does it matter?

We should probably wish Target and Librify well. Getting more people to read is a worthy goal. Pulling it off is going to be a lot tougher.

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