“Clinkle Raises Celebrity-Filled $25M Round As It Gears Up To Eliminate The Physical Wallet tcrn.ch/18imaU5 by @gallagherbilly”

Took me a while to disentangle those words too – I still think Twitter made a primordial mistake, 140 characters was slightly too few. Anyway, essentially, Clinkle is God’s gift to mobile payments – an Instagram for transactions. Your wallet on your phone. Beautiful, social-networked, friendly, iconic, and ridiculously hyped, it seems to be the bona-fide Next Big Thing. And I think it’s big news for ebooks.

This April, I was lucky enough to attend the London Book Fair, with my employers, Arc Publications. I thought, ambling down between stands – representing publishers, distributors, aggregators, thought-leaders, technologists – I wonder where all the ebooks are? There were rows of books, hundreds of books, on shelves of all sizes; there were e-readers, dozens of different shapes, made by several different companies, with hundreds of halogen lights drawing tentative bookishers like moths; but not an ebook in sight.

Fair enough. Ebooks are not things, you can’t put them up on a shelf. Except you can. These stands cost a lot of money to hire, and there were already plenty of screens about. One more, with all the ebook covers displayed gloriously on any kind of shelf you could possibly desire, wouldn’t break any banks.

But of course, what’s the point? No one’s going to remember all those garish covers, when they’re sitting on the train the following week deciding which Kindle Book Sample to download next. And it’s not like anyone can buy an ebook right there and then. What would they buy, a download card? A code? Easy to lose, or forget.

This has been a problem since the first publisher released the first ebook. It’s a confined marketplace – the consumer has to be on a specific website, logged in, with their card details ready, before they can buy an ebook.

I think Clinkle, or something like it, could change all that. London Book Fair, 2015 (let’s give them a couple of years). I’m there with my large, well-respected publishing empire which I started from scratch in a bedsit somewhere in Yorkshire (ha). On our stand is a huge, wafer-thin, semi-transparent screen which I one of my minions carried down in a small briefcase. Ebook covers cover it, and all punters have to do is tap a cover they like, and a sample comes to the fore with price information and an author bio. They tap “buy” – the screen communicates with their phone via the Clinkle app, takes the money right there and then, and within a few seconds they have the ebook – on their phone, e-reader or whatever device they have set up through Clinkle.

[The Book Case, Hebden Bridge][1]
My local, The Book Case in Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire

So far, local bookshops have had a hard time breaking into the ebook market. The only really widespread practice I know of is the Indie eBook Shop, a strange system which I don’t fully understand, whereby local bookshops get some cash when you buy an eBook from IES via the bookshop’s website. It’s far from ideal and, given that you’re not actually in the shop, it’s not nearly as useful to them as going in, buying a book and then telling all your friends what a nice place it is.

If payments can be made securely, in person, through a near-field connection to your mobile (apparently how Clinkle will function), everything changes.

Ok, it’s not so different now. Why aren’t people already using bookshops to decide which ebooks to buy? Maybe they are. But the difference, when widespread phone payments land, is that the transaction can happen in the shop, via both your and the shop’s hardware. They get to handle the payment, and you get the ebook immediately. Of course this will require the cooperation of Kobo, Apple, Sony, Adobe, Amazon, Google and all the rest. But if Clinkle achieve what they’ve set out to achieve, they won’t have any choice in the matter.

I can’t wait.

Do you know of any ways bookshops can/do sell ebooks in-store already?