Tea at Downton Abbey – The Rise and Rise of the Supermarket Ebook Store

Downton 2

If you’ve ever wondered where the biggest challenge to Amazon’s Kindle ebook store will come from, look no further than the UK, The phenomenally successful TV series Downton Abbey today gives us a hint of the future.

You’ve probably never heard of Sainsbury Ebooks, and if you had, and realised they were a British grocery store jumping on the ebook bandwagon you’d understandably not expect to hear of them ever again.

We’ll be reporting in depth on the state of play in the UK as soon as the Christmas and New Year festivities wind down, but we’re running this post today because the chance to win Tea at Downton Abbey is just for today.

No, we’re not trying to promote Sainsbury, or suggest you enter. But this is just one example of how the British supermarket chain Sainsbury are playing the ebook game at a level other ebook retailers don’t come close to.

Sainsbury only started selling ebooks earlier this year – much to the derision of industry commentators and many indies, who were fighting each other to explain what a ridiculous idea this was. A supermarket? Selling ebooks? They’d best stick to selling baked beans.

Sainsbury doesn’t have is own e-reader or tablet and its previous connection with publishing was pretty much limited to selling a handful of big-name print books on very restricted shelf-space in some of its bigger supermarketstores.

Yet Sainsbury is now running rings around many of its UK ebook competitors, and anecdotal evidence suggests it is eating into Amazon UK market share. No official figures to back that up as yet, but this summer and autumn we’ve seen Amazon desperately playing catch-up with price matching as Sainsbury adopted guerrilla tactics with one-day special offers of Big Name authors at prices that would make you think they were self-pubbed.

And as this delightful Downton Abbey competition shows, Sainsbury are thinking outside the box when it comes to selling ebooks. Literally. Another of their sales ploys is to advertise big name authors like James Patterson on the back of their own-brand cereal packets and other groceries.

This on top of a superbly presented ebook store that, despite being run by a supermarket, doesn’t try to sell you diapers or dog food, but does give you supermarket loyalty points with every ebook purchase, Add to this the in-store advertising for the millions of Sainsbury shoppers who walk through their doors every day and you can begin to understand how a  supermarket ebook store has the potential to do rather well.

And it’s not alone. Rival British supermarket chain Tesco (which happens to be way bigger than Sainsbury) launches its own ebook store in early 2014 and will be doing everything Sainsbury, is doing, and a lot more besides. They already have their own tablet, the Hudl.

Once again the nay-sayers were quick to denounce the idea. When the Hudl’s imminent release was announced industry commentators were scratching each other’s eyes out to explain just how tacky and utterly useless a supermarket tablet would be. Weeks later they were eating double-helpings of Tesco’s own-brand humble pie as the Hudl won accolade after accolade and was pretty much universally declared the beat tablet on the market in its price range. It was so successful that just months later Tesco are bringing out a second tablet. their ebook store Blinkbox Books should be live by Easter.

If you’re still laughing at the thought of a backwater British grocery store snapping at the ankles of the mighty Amazon, stick around for our forthcoming post on Tesco. It will blow your socks off.

Oh, and don’t get too complacent across the pond. Expect Walmart, Target, Costco and Staples ebook stores soon. Market fragmentation has only just begun.

EBUK Far More Than400

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