Which country has the most ebook stores?
The answer may surprise you. It’s Poland.
Outrageous, or what?! Poland hasn’t even got a Kindle store. How do they know ebooks exist?
Yeah, it’s a funny old world.
In fact Poland has been selling ebooks since 2004, three years before the first Kindle was launched, and five years before KDP appeared on the scene, and now has an ebook store on every street corner. Well, not quite, but how does twenty-five “local” ebook retailers grab you?
That’s in addition to the international players like Apple, Google Play and ‘txtr that have also set up shop there.
And then of course there are the big international stores like Amazon and Kobo that Poles can buy from via their central sites, and the small international stores like Smashwords, Diesel, All-Romance/OmniLit, Blio, etc, that Poles can also buy ebooks from.
We’ll come back to Poland in another post, as there is much we can learn from them. But most of the Polish ebook outlets are local-language only, or at least only accessible by local-language portals, so not of great interest to us right now.
So which English-language country has the most ebook stores?
Before you read on, have a quick count-up and make an educated guess.
No, it’s not the USA (unless you count the many indie book stores with ebook sites through Kobo and IndieBound).
Yep, Down Under are way up top when it comes to places to buy ebooks from.
But how many Australian ebook stores are you in? How many can you even name?
- Amazon Australia
- Apple Australia
- Kobo Australia
- Google Play Australia
- ‘txtr Australia
- Sony Reader Store Australia
- Nook Australia
- Angus & Robertson
- Australian Publishers Association
- JB Hi-Fi
- Big W
- Fishpond Australia
- Pages & Pages
To which we can add the smaller international-access stores like:
- All Romance / OmniLit
- Ebooks Com
And no doubt a good many more we’ve overlooked.
There are also a number of other small indie bookstores in Australia experimenting with. or with plans for. ebook stores. Some, like Big W and JB Hi-Fi, have no prior association with books, but have opened an ebook store anyway. Expect many more bandwagon-jumpers like these to set up ebook shop in Australia (and worldwide) over the next year or two.
But just in that list above Australians have a choice of some twenty-five or so retail outlets to buy their ebooks from.
Why so many? Geography plays a key role here. In a land as vast and empty as Australia book stores are few and far between, and if you live outside the big cities even fewer and even farther. For print books distribution was (and currently is, but that will change – see our forthcoming post on why POD is going to grow in importance) a logistical nightmare, severely limiting what books Australians could choose from.
No surprise then that when Amazon came along, distributing print books far and wide by kangaroo mail, Australians were quick to spot the opportunity to have, after a short wait for delivery, access to far more print books than any local bookstore could offer.
And no surprise either that when the Kindle appeared on the scene Australians were especially keen to get them, given they (unlike most of the world) could buy ebooks direct from Amazon US without surcharges.
Amazon Up Top Down Under – But For How Long?
Back in 2009 there were very few rival devices about, and even less that were affordable, so the Kindle got off to a flying start. Just like in the US and the UK, Amazon snatched about 90% of the ebook market.
Which of course put Amazon in an unassailable position, so indies don’t need to bother about being in the Johnny-come-lately club, right?
What’s important to understand is that, as the new Kindle Australia site finally went live last month (Nov 2013 for anyone reading this long after it was posted), Amazon’s market share is estimated at between 60%-70%, which means that as many as four out of ten readers may be buying elsewhere.
Admittedly those four out of ten are spread over a fair number of outlets, as per the list above. And yes, we know what you’re thinking. All that extra hassle just to get four sales? You’ve got more important things to do.
But try thinking of it as forty sales out of every hundred. Or four hundred out of every thousand. And for the big hitters, four thousand out of every ten thousand.
Exactly. You cannot afford to ignore the smaller stores as we move to the second stage of the digital transition. We’ll discuss just what the “second stage” involves in another post, but for now just be assured the second stage means more ebooks being bought from more ebook stores than you can even conceive of right now.
Let’s be clear. We’re not saying Amazon sales will decrease. Just the opposite! But even as the volume of Amazon ebook sales increases so their market share will fall further over the coming years.
Why? Because of market fragmentation, glocalization and the proliferation of smaller ebook stores.
And remember, this is a global phenomena, not just Australia. It’s already happening in the US, and it’s about to happen in the UK.
More on that in another post. But for now, back to Australia.
The Amazon Kindle Australia store is of course a welcome new addition to the Amazon camp, but it is a new addition in name only. In reality Amazon Kindle Australia is just an Amazon Dot Com sub-domain site, and brings little new to the table. And what is new may not be that welcome.
Local authors can load up to KDP direct and get paid direct, and local readers can now see the prices and pay in Australian dollars, but for authors it doesn’t open up any new markets as Australians were already able to buy from Amazon US without being surcharged.
And as with Amazon Canada, this late arrival in a market where, paradoxically, it was doing well,actually hinders as much as it helps. Indie titles appearing in the new Amazon AU store kick off with no ranking and no reviews, and of course it is another site to promote, for those OCD types among you who can’t go an hour without tweeting your title, and another web address to add to your promo page.
At this stage Amazon Australia pricing also seems pretty erratic, but teething problems are to be expected.
That said, we are hearing disturbing reports from authors in both Australia and New Zealand that these may not be teething problems, but part of Amazon policy. It would seem New Zealanders have been told they are now Australians so far as Amazon is concerned, and both Australians and New Zealanders are being charged significantly more than the US$ list prices for ebooks – prices that bear little relationship to the currency exchange rates. More on this in a forthcoming post when we have further clarification.
Meanwhile, for those of you who pay attention to fine detail and like to run a tight ship, it’s worth checking into your KDP account and setting the Australian list price to a fixed sum – ie 0.99 or 3.00 or whatever, otherwise you’ll end up with those horrendous “just over” prices like $1.03 and $3.07, because Amazon will by default set your Australia price based on the exchange rate for the US dollar.
And by the way the same goes for all the other satellite sites. Prices like 167.83 rupees on Amazon India don’t just look unprofessional – they will likely put off potential buyers. More on international pricing in a forthcoming post.
So, thanks to their head start Amazon held around 90% of market share for ebooks in Australia, just as it did in the USA and UK. Best estimates now are that it’s nearer 60%-65%, and as the competition gets serious we can expect that probably to level off at around forty percent in the coming few years. The biggest still – it’s hard to imagine Amazon being dethroned soon in this particular market – but nowhere near a monopoly.
And the runners-up are…
Thanks to its partnership with a number of Australian retail stores and chains Kobo is likely to be a big contender for second place over the next year or two, although it’s generally agreed Apple Australia has that honour at the moment.
With over fifty international ebook stores Apple is an essential place to be seen. Given Apple have over 200 iTunes stores worldwide it’s just a matter of time before they roll out more iBooks stores alongside. Though a note of caution there – it seems many Apple iBooks store, such as Apple Malaysia, only stock public domain titles.
So, back to Australia, and the other big player, Kobo.
Kobo has a “glocalized” Kobo Australia store, but unless you are in Australia you probably won’t be able to access it easily, and to be honest most Australians don’t know it exists, even if they use Kobo devices.
The reason being any Australia Kobo users will likely as not be buying their ebooks from either Angus & Robertson, Bookworld or Collins, which are the three key Kobo partner stores, each with their own fully-fledged ebook stores.
Those of you in Kobo will find many of your titles in these stores. If you are in Angus & Robertson you can be pretty sure you are also in Bookworld at the same price. Collins is a bit more hit and miss.
If you are with Kobo and not showing in any of these three stores then you need to get on to both Kobo and the individual stores. The stores will tell you it’s Kobo’s problem and hat Kobo haven’t sent them the titles in question. Kobo will tell you they send everything but the ebook stores pick and choose what they stock. But amid the mutual blame what usually happens is the missing titles miraculously appear.
Another, much smaller Kobo partner store is Pages & Pages, which is an indie book store with a link to Kobo Australia. Pages & Pages have only just partnered with Kobo, and at this stage do not have an online store of their own, but send buyers to the Kobo Australia site direct. That may change. We’re waiting to hear back from them on their plans. But if you are with Kobo then Pages & Pages customers will be able to buy your books.
Pages & Pages certainly won’t make you rich, but don’t go thinking they aren’t worth the effort. Micro-stores like these should be acknowledged and encouraged by indie authors, not dismissed as irrelevant. They have small but loyal customer bases. Readers, to you and me.
And not just any readers. These are readers who have kept these indie bookstores in business until now, rather than buying at lower prices from Amazon or a local chain store, and they are unlikely to suddenly start buying their ebooks elsewhere.
The Pages & Pages team are fiercely patriotic and miss no opportunity to tell Australians how buying from Amazon sends money out of the country, creates no local jobs, etc. For some while now Pages & Pages has been running a Kindle Amnesty programme, offering cash in return for Kindles being handed in and exchanged for Kobo devices.
It’s not known how many (if indeed any) might have taken up this offer. The wider world has cottoned on to the story in the past week or so as if it is something new, but those with good memories will know we mentioned this a month or two back, and the Amnesty has been going on since April 2013.
Other ebook stores, while not quite so open in their dislike of the mighty Zon, also loudly trumpet their Australian credentials. Angus & Robertson declares itself “Proudly Australian”. Booktopia claims to be “Australia’s local bookstore” and reminds us all it is “Australian owned and operated”, while QBD is “Aussi owned and operated”. And so so and so on.
Don’t underestimate the power of patriotism to influence buying patterns overseas as the digital market expands. Look on Australia as a barometer indicating the way the wind is blowing for the rest of the world.
Outsiders On the Inside
Of course Amazon is not the only international player targeting the Australian ebook market. Google Play and ‘txtr both have dedicated Australian ebook stores, as does Sony and Nook.
As we’ve said before, Google Play and ‘txtr are ones to watch. Google Play has 44 stores worldwide, ‘txtr 17. Neither are making a huge impact in Australia (or anywhere else) right now, but don’t let that lull you into complacency about the future.
Google Play has a self-pub option in the loosest sense of the word. Expect a proper self-pub portal in 2014.
‘Txtr have a pending upload agreement with Smashwords (not yet official), Meanwhile you can get into the ‘txtr stores, including ‘txtr Australia, through an aggregator that deals with the wholesaler catalogues. Likewise Sony. Smashwords gets you into Sony US and Sony Canada but not the other Sony five stores (Australia, Austria, Germany, Japan and UK).
Unless you live there you’ll probably have difficulty accessing Google Play Australia, due to stringent territorial controls, but ‘txtr Australia and the Australian Sony Reader Store are easily viewed, easily signed up to, and well worth being in.
Nook Australia? As we’ve reported previously, Nook had an international expansion programme on the cards and, probably alone among the industry commentators, we’ve been upbeat about it actually happening. Last month Nook finally rolled out across much of Europe and also Australia (32 countries is their claim), with a restricted platform (Windows 8 app required) ebook offering.
You can get the Windows 8 app for Nook at the Nook Australia site – http://www.nook.com/au/windows. Yeah, read that bit again: the Nook Australia site.
Okay, it’s not quite as grand as it sounds, but it’s early days. We’ll be reporting in full on the Nook expansion in the New Year. Just remember not to take too seriously the doom and gloom mongers who have been gleefully predicting B&N’s and Nook’s demise.
We leave the subject of Nook for now with this from Softonic:
“NOOK for Windows 8 blows Kindle for Windows 8 out of the water. Barnes & Noble has done an excellent job of creating NOOK for Windows 8 and definitely ramps up the competition between it and Amazon.”
Bear that in mind next time you read an industry piece saying Nook is the walking dead.
Another small international player is Ebooks Dot Com, which prices in US dollars and sells around the world, but is actually an Australian company, and one of (if not the) oldest ebook stores still in existence. Ebooks Dot Com actually started selling ebooks last century! Not a big player, but another option for readers. Not many indie titles there, but those that are get in through Ingram.
Meanwhile, back to the many smaller local
Australian ebook retailers you simply cannot afford to ignore.
Take QBD – Queensland Book Depot if you must know. With fifty or so bricks and mortar stores across Australia they are no outback bookshop.
Accessible for indies? Absolutely. QBD ebooks are supplied by the wholesaler Copia. So are Dymocks. We mentioned Ingram above. Ingram also supply Booktopia.
Being in the wholesaler catalogues (Ingram, Gardners, Copia, OverDrive, Baker & Taylor, etc) is ESSENTIAL if you want to reach the international markets in any serious way, and that includes Australia. Taking just a few more from the list at the top of this article – Fishpond, Big W, JB Hi-Fi, etc, are all accessible to indie authors if they are in the wholesaler catalogues.
They can even get you into stores which at first glance seem distinctly indie-unfriendly. Take the Australian Publishers Association, for example. Obviously that’d exclusively for Australian Publishers, right?
Well, that may have been its original intention, but their ebook store is fed by Copia, and that means indies who have made the effort to be in the Copia catalogue may well be in the APA store.
No, you probably won’t see many sales each month from the APA, or QBD, or Dymocks, but that’s not the point. We are just at the beginning of an incredibly exciting journey into global ebook sales, and these stores are just the tip of the iceberg.
Copia, along with Ingram, OverDrive, Page Foundry and other companies far too many to mention, are offering so-called White Label solutions. Put simply, they provide a ready-made ebook-store filled to the rafters with big name ebooks from big publishers. You just sign up and slap your company logo on the front of the box then sit back and watch the money roll in.
It means that pretty much anyone anywhere with the inclination and some web space can set up an ebook store of their own, filled with anything from tens of thousands to literally millions of ebooks, all being sold under their own brand label.
Check out Big W or JB Hi-Fi in the Australian list above – fine examples of White Label stores, and also fine examples of how retailers with no previous connection with books are getting in on the act. Expect lots more of the same.
And in case you need reminding, yes, there are indie titles in them. But only indies who are in the wholesaler catalogues. The wholesaler catalogues don’t have self-pub portals as such, although individuals can set up accounts. But the ideal is to have one or two aggregators who do have accounts with them and do all this work for you, leaving you to write your next book.
At the moment Smashwords only gets you into Baker & Taylor, and D2D into none, but there are other aggregators about, and more will soon appear.
The British aggregator Ebook Partnership has an excellent track record and can get you into all they key wholesaler catalogues. That’s a pay up front option, but you get 100% of net royalties.
Untreed Reads also has a good range of outlets, and offers a pay-as-you-earn option, similar to Smashwords.
Bookbaby has just this month started a new “free” distribution option (like Smashwords and Untreed Reads it’s not actually free – they will take a percentage from your sales revenue). Bookbaby doesn’t get you in all the key wholesaler catalogues but does get you into Copia and Gardners, and also Scribd and eSentral. Well worth checking out.
We’ll be looking in depth at both aggregators and the wholesaler catalogues in the New Year.
Aggregators should be your best friends. Don’t underestimate what they can do for you, now and in the future. They can get you access not only to stores you never knew existed, but into stores that don’t yet exist. A presence in hundreds – soon thousands – of ebook stores around the globe.
If you’re thinking all these micro-outlets aren’t worth bothering with, think again. A sale is a sale. When your Amazon or Apple Australia reader likes your book and tells their friend who has an epub ereader and an account at Big W, or only ever shops at QBD, or is a loyal customer at Booktopia, you may just have made another sale.
More importantly, when that Amazon or Apple customer tells that friend and said friend with the epub ereader goes to their preferred ebook store and you’re not there, you’ve probably just LOST a sale.
Quite aside from which, as we’ll explain in a forthcoming post, “glocalization” and market fragmentation mean these myriad small and micro-stores are going to collectively be very important players. And because they will be supplied by the wholesaler catalogues it means the said wholesaler catalogues are about to become far more important than you would ever imagine.
As we’ll be explaining in a forthcoming post, the wholesaler catalogues have reach way beyond anything Amazon, Apple, Kobo or Google Play can match. Put simply, the wholesaler catalogues are the new black.
As we hurtle into 2014, and the international ebook market grows ever bigger, ever faster, how many ebook stores will you be in?
Don’t get left behind.
Go Global In 2014.