YesAsia deal adds 8,000 titles online
Music and entertainment site YesAsia.com has teamed up with Kingstone books, Taiwan's largest bookstore chain, to offer Taiwan-published books on YesAsia's site.
YesAsia caters to an audience of people aged from 18 to 25, most of whom are in North America and ordering films and music through the site.
The Kingstone deal adds a further 8,000 books to the site, which already carries several hundred titles from small Hong Kong publishers.
It also underscores a departure in strategy for the three-year-old YesAsia, from carrying its own inventory to publishing the catalogues of third-party merchants and shipping after orders.
YesAsia's outlet model, similar to that used by Amazon.com, now accounts for about 10 to 20 per cent of its business.
But information technology and operations director Albert Wong Ywai Keung expected that figure to grow, especially as YesAsia pursued outlet stores in categories such as cosmetics and gifts.
'If you want to have a good fulfilment you need to have a high inventory. But we are partnering up with offline enterprises because they already have the stock and the product expertise,' Mr Wong said.
Inventory risk and logistics costs have brought down most online book peddlers. These include Chinesebooks.com, which closed its store and sold its trademark to investor ITVentures. ITVentures had plans to offer books for electronic download but has shelved them indefinitely.
Mr Wong said YesAsia had survived because it had achieved enough volume to support daily shipments from Hong Kong to a warehouse in San Francisco. From there, orders were sent by normal post or express shipments to customers in North America.
Kingstone has a chain of about 100 stores in Taiwan, as well as a Chinese-language Web site selling books online. Most of the business at the site came from Taiwan and the publisher did not intend to close it, Mr Wong said.
CP1897 is perhaps YesAsia's largest domestic competitor, claiming an inventory of one million books, 500,000 in Chinese and 500,000 in English. The site is backed by Hong Kong publisher Commercial Press (HK) and Sunevision, and targets the Greater China market.
In Taiwan, online book buyers' choices include a Chinese version of Amazon.com, books.com.tw, 4book.com.tw and an online bookstore run by domestic newspaper China Post.
Mainland site bookoo.com.cn offers electronic books and Hong Kong's MultiMedia Internet Store sells computer and technology books online.
However, Mr Wong said sites offering a broad selection of Chinese-language books were few, especially those catering to buyers from outside Asia.
'There is not really a very strong overseas bookseller. I'm not aware of any big ones.'
Privately held YesAsia, with headquarters in San Francisco, reported sales of HK$17 million in 1999.
Mr Wong said sales were up 30 to 40 per cent from last year but the company was not yet profitable.
YesAsia's investors include Walden International Investment Group and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Private Equity.