New Zealand Dymocks stores could see the arrival of kiosks dispensing digital books within the year, matching technology now being rolled out in Australia.
The direction Dymocks Australian-based chief executive Don Grover is trying to take the bookseller would flummox William Dymock, who founded the company 128 years ago.
In the past 12 months, Grover has acquired rival stores and established an online business using the same technology as international retailers Wal-Mart, Tesco and Home Depot.
Now he is leading an ambitious push for Dymocks to truly embrace the digital age, something booksellers in Australia have struggled to achieve. Last month, Dymocks expanded its online offering to include more than 120,000 digital books customers can download at home or using in-store kiosks and a Dymocks-branded USB stick.
Those kiosks could arrive in New Zealand in the next year, says Dymocks resale business manager Doris Mousdale. She says the system is great for people such as academics or, say, the visually impaired, who can adjust the font of the product to suit their needs.
"There's a whole new generation that will access books in a 'non-paper'way," she says.
Grover, who took the helm of Dymocks four years ago after 25 years at David Jones, wants to take on Amazon in online book retailing and has foreshadowed expansion into new categories to take advantage of its new-found strength.
"We want to be one of the world's best multi-channel retailers," Grover says. "We have a successful website and successful bricks-and-mortar business, and we're now going to have kiosk functionality in our stores with downloadable digital material.
"We're not just restricted to books in terms of digital delivery. Dymocks is in the entertainment business, and you might find us heading off into other areas that make sense for our customers."
Grover has no intention of alerting his competitors to his plans, but one project already under way is developing the capability to print books on demand.
Grover expects Dymocks's web business to triple over the next five years, with digital books accounting for 25% of that growth. He wants to increase the range of books available in-store, online and digitally from about 500,000 to about 4.5 million.
"On that pathway we start to become very significant competitors of Amazon and other pure-play online businesses," he says.
Dymocks has 84 stores in Australia and New Zealand, most of which are franchised, and accounts for more than 18% of the $1.2 billion Australian book retailing market.
While international publishers have embraced digital books, most Australian publishers have yet to come to grips with issues such as digital copyright. "It's tough enough in rights when you're printing a book," says Australian Publishers Association chief executive Maree McCaskill.
"Digital rights is a different landscape altogether."
— Australian Financial Review, with New Zealand reporting by Rob O'Neill