News

Waterstone's parent buys stake in 'social bookselling' website

HMV Group has "substantially" backed a social networking site called aNobii, which aims to help readers find buy and share books.

The website, www.anobii.com, has existed since 2006 but was bought recently by internet entrepreneur Matteo Berlucchi, who founded Livestation, a live TV streaming service. Its users span across 20 countries, with most traffic through Italy, Spain, Taiwan and Hong Kong, but this is the first time the site has been launched in the UK.

HMV Group c.e.o. Simon Fox is a non-executive director on the board after the group invested in a 45% stake. Simon Murdoch, who sold his Bookpages online bookseller to Amazon in 1998, is another non-exec director. HarperCollins, Penguin and Random House have each invested in aNobii but only "minor" stakes.

Users of the site can build their own shelves of books in an online profile, review books, recommend and share titles through Facebook and Twitter and talk with other readers on discussion forums. There is an aNobii app, which allows users to scan barcodes on the back of books and access hundreds of thousands of reviews from other users on the aNobii site, as well as add the books to their library.

The site is planning to launch a transactional service later this year for both print and e-books and was in discussions with retailers about who will provide it. Despite HMV Group taking the stake in the site, Belucchi said no decision had yet been made.

He said: "We want to create a social commerce platform that will allow people to find, share and buy books beyond the bestseller lists with an emphasis on creating an environment where people can talk about books they love. aNobii's knowledge and functionality for finding books and engaging readers gives the service we want to build a head-start."

An HMV spokesman said its involvement was to support Berlucchi, set strategic direction and help deliver business objectives. He said: "We believe that a combination of HMV Group's relevant customer base, interesting content from publishers and aNobii's existing online tools and technology will make this an exciting online destination for book lovers."

Berlucchi refused to disclose how much he paid in taking over the company, the number of UK users at present or how much HMV Group or the publishers had invested. He said while there had been several attempts at a book social networking site before, aNobii was the first to fully marry retail with social networking.

He said: "There hasn't really been anyone yet who has ventured into social bookselling properly. They have either been half-hearted from the retail side or through a closed social network. People don't want to have millions of different accounts; they want something integrated through Facebook or Twitter.

"Facebook has pretty much won the social networking battle so we might as well use that."
 

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And the band played on...

More money down the toilet !

On the same news page as this little gem is the headline "Waterstones cuts 17 head office staff."
In the 12 weeks since Xmas, HMV's share price has fallen 65%. And today it has dropped another 5%.

Anobii? Anyone ever heard of it before today?

Oh, for f*** sake!
For a company that isn't making money and had to tell shareholders that it was doing badly, they sure do like to throw their money around!
Why not fix the current problems before splashing the cash on something new?
This is why the staff in the stores really do not like head office.
IDIOTS

The Waterstone's website could have been a PERFECT place for promoting books not in the best seller lists... did nobody think to use that?
GRR!
Why doesn't he just admit they look to Waterstone's to keep them afloat?

This has been tried before ,not least with BOOKRABBIT. I dont see this as the salvation of Waterstones, more a diversion of energy and funds.

"aNobii was the first to fully marry retail with social networking". Not heard of Book Rabbit then?

This is a smart move. The site infinitely more sophisticated than the BookRabbit thing. And the idea is properly oblique. A relatively cheap way to cut yourself a slice of what Apple and Amazon haven't yet taken in ebooks. And if nothing else a decent hedge.

Obviously someone at HMV has decided that the next big threat to their current business is ebooks - and it is hard to argue with that. It is also hard to disagree that a new strategy to give themselves a slice of this market is a good idea to help protect themselves a little.

But...

This looks like a terrible investment - real dot com boom nonsense. Reminds me of Murdoch buying myspace when he did. Oops.

Why didn't they spend the same amount of money boosting their ebook offering through Watersotnes.com, and create a proper ebook strategy that is perhaps not so tied to the Sony ereader.

Surely it would be a good idea to build on the strength of one of your book brands instead of buying into a new brand not known in your main market - unless of course you don't expect to have that book brand for long?

So, everyone's a bookseller now? I wouldn't read a book recommended by the man next door, so why should I believe a facebook recommend by someone I know nothing about? This is as bad as 'community journalism' by which they hope to get rid of the proper journalists who can actually write and who can bring perspective and their general knowledge to a story. I think I'll go and dig an air-raid shelter in my garden now to house all the wonderful booksellers working in the UK.

Firstly, the company is still making money - Probably something like £40 million profit this year. Ok, so it's not as much as shareholders would hope, but the high street retail markets are incredibly challenging at the moment, in case you hadn't noticed.

Secondly, Waterstones in particular have always been a step behind the market when it comes to new technology, so it's nice to see the company being proactive for once.

When I started with the company 4 years ago the ordering system on the Waterstones website was only just up and running and staff in the shops had only just stopped referring people to Amazon if they didn't have the book they wanted in store.

People moan about Waterstones and HMV not reacting to a changing marketplace, but to do so requires investment.

Actually BOOKRABBIT was trialing most of this before Argentvive ran out of Argent .I still think that a social website of this nature is a diversion for HMV who are in the sh*t, but let's hope that my lack of vision is the equivalent of the man who didn't sign the Beatles.

Having looked at the website I just wondered why HMV invested money in it. Its dull, not user friendly and there are a lot of foreign languages to cope with. I'm not tempted to return.

er ... no

Of all the social book sites a company would invest in, I'm surprised they chose Anobii. It's pretty shoddy when compared to sites like Shelfari, GoodReads, and LibraryThing. They don't always have books listed, and the interface doesn't always work (what, clicking on "Edit" should do something?!).

But, hey, it's not my money... ;P

Julian Rivers: As an independent bookseller whose trade has been badly affected by Waterstone's moving in, once they spotted my success, I sincerely hope your vision of HMV's move is acute, hopefully on a par with Brian Epstein's epiphany when he stepped into the dank cellar of The Cavern and immediately put all other plans on hold. Power to the People.

If they are so worried about ebooks, why not turn a corner of the store into a dedicated ebook space, where you can not only browse the ereaders that Waterstone's sell but actually download books too... this may not seem to bring money into the store but it would be the Waterstone's website that was being used and it's likely alot of the people buying ebooks in the store would also buy physical books at another date.
Brand awareness, etc.

I don't care how great it actually is. No consumer is going to want to associate with a website that sounds like 'a nob'. 'hey dude, did you log onto your nobbi account last night'? I think not. If this is the best name they came up with for an english language site, it says very little about the rest. Do you really think that facebook would have worked if it was called 'anob book'? purile and immature yes, but these things all subconsciously play in the back of a consumers mind. For a retail group that is supposedly into brand awareness...how could they make such an elementary blunder? Having looked at the site, it's awful, i don't understand it. It's a mess. seems to me like it's more of a Simon Fox exit strategy than anything else. He's now a chairman of this nobby thing? So when hmv goes feet up this summer he'll have a position to fall back on. Well that's ok then.

Just visited the website and agree with Nicholas, a lot of room for improvement there! The layout is apoorling, very few functions for the user indeed and the social commerce platform which in my opinion should be the main attraction of the site is not yet there.
Not (yet) a positive publicity for the books or the publishers.
Doubt the site will take of here as it stands
No wonder why Berlucchi refused to disclose the number of UK users .. numbers are probably very low!

WHY?? HMV have Waterstone's- why buy stakes in a site that is about bookselling and ebooks when they have waterstones.com and 300-odd bookstores? HMV, stop stealing from Waterstone's and let them go.

And the band played on...

More money down the toilet !

On the same news page as this little gem is the headline "Waterstones cuts 17 head office staff."
In the 12 weeks since Xmas, HMV's share price has fallen 65%. And today it has dropped another 5%.

Anobii? Anyone ever heard of it before today?

Oh, for f*** sake!
For a company that isn't making money and had to tell shareholders that it was doing badly, they sure do like to throw their money around!
Why not fix the current problems before splashing the cash on something new?
This is why the staff in the stores really do not like head office.
IDIOTS

Firstly, the company is still making money - Probably something like £40 million profit this year. Ok, so it's not as much as shareholders would hope, but the high street retail markets are incredibly challenging at the moment, in case you hadn't noticed.

Secondly, Waterstones in particular have always been a step behind the market when it comes to new technology, so it's nice to see the company being proactive for once.

When I started with the company 4 years ago the ordering system on the Waterstones website was only just up and running and staff in the shops had only just stopped referring people to Amazon if they didn't have the book they wanted in store.

People moan about Waterstones and HMV not reacting to a changing marketplace, but to do so requires investment.

The Waterstone's website could have been a PERFECT place for promoting books not in the best seller lists... did nobody think to use that?
GRR!
Why doesn't he just admit they look to Waterstone's to keep them afloat?

This has been tried before ,not least with BOOKRABBIT. I dont see this as the salvation of Waterstones, more a diversion of energy and funds.

"aNobii was the first to fully marry retail with social networking". Not heard of Book Rabbit then?

er ... no

This is a smart move. The site infinitely more sophisticated than the BookRabbit thing. And the idea is properly oblique. A relatively cheap way to cut yourself a slice of what Apple and Amazon haven't yet taken in ebooks. And if nothing else a decent hedge.

Obviously someone at HMV has decided that the next big threat to their current business is ebooks - and it is hard to argue with that. It is also hard to disagree that a new strategy to give themselves a slice of this market is a good idea to help protect themselves a little.

But...

This looks like a terrible investment - real dot com boom nonsense. Reminds me of Murdoch buying myspace when he did. Oops.

Why didn't they spend the same amount of money boosting their ebook offering through Watersotnes.com, and create a proper ebook strategy that is perhaps not so tied to the Sony ereader.

Surely it would be a good idea to build on the strength of one of your book brands instead of buying into a new brand not known in your main market - unless of course you don't expect to have that book brand for long?

So, everyone's a bookseller now? I wouldn't read a book recommended by the man next door, so why should I believe a facebook recommend by someone I know nothing about? This is as bad as 'community journalism' by which they hope to get rid of the proper journalists who can actually write and who can bring perspective and their general knowledge to a story. I think I'll go and dig an air-raid shelter in my garden now to house all the wonderful booksellers working in the UK.

Actually BOOKRABBIT was trialing most of this before Argentvive ran out of Argent .I still think that a social website of this nature is a diversion for HMV who are in the sh*t, but let's hope that my lack of vision is the equivalent of the man who didn't sign the Beatles.

Having looked at the website I just wondered why HMV invested money in it. Its dull, not user friendly and there are a lot of foreign languages to cope with. I'm not tempted to return.

Of all the social book sites a company would invest in, I'm surprised they chose Anobii. It's pretty shoddy when compared to sites like Shelfari, GoodReads, and LibraryThing. They don't always have books listed, and the interface doesn't always work (what, clicking on "Edit" should do something?!).

But, hey, it's not my money... ;P

Julian Rivers: As an independent bookseller whose trade has been badly affected by Waterstone's moving in, once they spotted my success, I sincerely hope your vision of HMV's move is acute, hopefully on a par with Brian Epstein's epiphany when he stepped into the dank cellar of The Cavern and immediately put all other plans on hold. Power to the People.

If they are so worried about ebooks, why not turn a corner of the store into a dedicated ebook space, where you can not only browse the ereaders that Waterstone's sell but actually download books too... this may not seem to bring money into the store but it would be the Waterstone's website that was being used and it's likely alot of the people buying ebooks in the store would also buy physical books at another date.
Brand awareness, etc.

I don't care how great it actually is. No consumer is going to want to associate with a website that sounds like 'a nob'. 'hey dude, did you log onto your nobbi account last night'? I think not. If this is the best name they came up with for an english language site, it says very little about the rest. Do you really think that facebook would have worked if it was called 'anob book'? purile and immature yes, but these things all subconsciously play in the back of a consumers mind. For a retail group that is supposedly into brand awareness...how could they make such an elementary blunder? Having looked at the site, it's awful, i don't understand it. It's a mess. seems to me like it's more of a Simon Fox exit strategy than anything else. He's now a chairman of this nobby thing? So when hmv goes feet up this summer he'll have a position to fall back on. Well that's ok then.

Just visited the website and agree with Nicholas, a lot of room for improvement there! The layout is apoorling, very few functions for the user indeed and the social commerce platform which in my opinion should be the main attraction of the site is not yet there.
Not (yet) a positive publicity for the books or the publishers.
Doubt the site will take of here as it stands
No wonder why Berlucchi refused to disclose the number of UK users .. numbers are probably very low!

WHY?? HMV have Waterstone's- why buy stakes in a site that is about bookselling and ebooks when they have waterstones.com and 300-odd bookstores? HMV, stop stealing from Waterstone's and let them go.

This is all about marketing to the shareholders that HMV are doing "something new", than to the public . A business development press release makes better reading to investors than closures and profit warnings. In a years time we will have all forgotten about this initiative I suspect.

Yes, I can imagine the board meeting where HMV decided to buy this website. A gloomy Victorian room full of dark furniture, the old boys of the board sitting round the table. None of them know anything about technology, but know its a "good thing", "the interweb" is "of the future" and - decision made. Now all they've got to do is totally revamp, reorganise and market the dead duck they've bought. Might have to spend a bit more money then....

GoodReads does it better but HMV probably couldn't afford that.

And as is often the case on this site we get down to the insults from a nameless fool. Bend in the River -no contribution at all . It's pathetic and frankly you should be ashamed .Grow up son.

I care, i own an indi bookshop, so my closing down over the summer due to amazon and the supermarkets selling everything cheaper than i can buy for - generally making most people think that I am therefore "ripping them off". So no it doenst make me any happier that maybe more people are reading.