Disappearing Titles And Copy-Cat Ebook Stores. Good News For Indies?


If you are planning on Going Global In 2014, but don’t want to work too hard at it, there could be good news on the horizon.

Indie titles have recently disappeared from all the ‘txtr sites, and simultaneously from the Sony Europe and Australia Reader Stores.

How is this good news? Read on.

For those unaware, Sony has seven Reader Stores globally – not just the US/Canada store, which has just been condemned – but notably in the UK, Austria, Germany and Australia.

For those unfamiliar, ‘txtr (no it’s not a typo) is a Berlin-based ebook operator that has no less than eighteen global stores, including the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, plus some very useful ebook stores in countries like Poland, Denmark, Switzerland, etc.

The Sony announcement for the US/Canada store specifically stated the North American store was closing, while studiously avoiding any reference to the other Sony Reader Stores.

While the North American Sony store has been neglected this past year Sony have been busy revamping their other Reader Stores.

Here’s the top banner of the revamped Sony UK Reader Store.

Sony Reader Store UK Top

And here’s the banner for the top part of the ‘txtr UK store.

Txtr UK top

Hmmm. Spot the difference…

Now here’s the bottom banner of the revamped Sony UK Reader Store.

Sony Reader Store UK Bottom

And here’s the bottom half of the revamped ‘txtr UK store.

Txtr UK Bottom

Cue spooky Twilight Zone music.  Titles disappear simultaneously from two rival retailers, and the rival retailers appear to be copying one another’s shopfront designs. What on earth is going on?

The fact that indie titles have disappeared from ‘txtr might be explained by a hint from Mark Coker over at the Smashwords blog. While lamenting the passing of the Sony North America store Mark tells us that he will be announcing a new Smashwords partner very soon.

As we’ve been reporting on the EBUK for a while now, our understanding is Smashwords have pending distribution agreements with both ‘txtr and OverDrive, so our guess is the indie titles are disappearing from ‘txtr as they change their feed-lines for ebooks. Hopefully those indie titles that have vanished will reappear in the ‘txtr stores through Smashwords in the near future.

The fact that indie titles have disappeared from the Sony Readers Stores at exactly the same time, and that the revamped Sony Reader Stores are little more than clones of the ‘txtr stores invites further speculation.

Either Sony is keeping the EU and AU Reader Stores in name but letting ‘txtr do all the hard work, or ‘txtr is taking over the Sony Reader Stores. Our inclination is towards the former, otherwise why not just close the stores and hand the customers over to ‘txtr as they are doing in North America with Kobo?

For indies it looks like good news, if it means indies with Smashwords will be in the fourteen ‘txtr stores and the surviving Sony Reader Stores. It may also mean indies get an easy route into the prestigious UK ebook store Foyles.

Foyles has never been off-limits to indies, just awkward to get into. Curiously at exactly the same time that indie titles have disappeared from the ‘txtr and Sony stores they have also disappeared from Foyles. The Foyles ebook store just happens to be powered by ‘txtr…

There’s no official comments from Sony, ‘txtr, Smashwords or Foyles – but the evidence is suggestive.


Nate at The Digital Reader has drawn our attention to a post from back in December 2012 when the Sony Germany Reader Store launched.

As you’ll see from the opening lines, Nate doesn’t have much time for Sony, or for small-time ebook retailers, but that reflects his interests in the broader market for devices. For us as indies the content is telling.

From comment’s to Nate’s item it seems ‘txtr may well have been powering the Sony Reader Store from day one as a “white label” store. As we’ve said in previous posts, in regard to the acceleration of market fragmentation, white label store are now proliferating wildly, thanks to companies like ‘txtr and OverDrive (among many) allowing operators with no previous interest in ebooks to open and run an ebook store for a nominal investment.

Foyles, as mentioned above, is typical of a ‘txtr-powered white label store.

Previously the Sony reader Stores were being clearly run as Sony stores at the front end, regardless of who was proving support at the backed, so the changes in store layout,  etc, suggest Sony is now letting ‘txtr run the front end as well as the back end.

Presumably the Sony Reader Stores will continue to be Sony in name, but will hereon carry identical content to the “official” ‘txtr stores, Whatever the fine detail, so long as the stores remain operational, and presuming the Smashwords deal is going through as above, this is good news for indies.

It looks like Smashwords has lost one/two retail outlets (the North America store which had ((still has at the time of writing)) a switch over button between the USA and Canada) and gained twenty-two other retail outlets in the form of the eighteen ‘txtr stores and the four Sony stores. ‘Txtr already has stores in the UK, Germany, Austria and Australia, so will effectively be running two ebook stores in those countries.

None of these are going to make any indies rich, but every new outlet is an additional chance for our work to be discovered, which is why we should be welcoming every new outlet, however small or (currently) insignificant it may seem.

‘Txtr had ambitions for expansion in the USA and elsewhere with “white label” partnerships and while there’s been no news on that for a while they are hopefully making progress behind the scenes. We’ve invited ‘txtr to give is an interview, and hopefully will have more on that in the near future.

We’ll be taking a closer look at white label store soon, but for those who are wondering what a white label store looks like from another operator, the Australian micro-store JB-Hi-Fi, back-ended by OverDrive, is a fine example.

* * *

Retailer Round-Up

Oops! No sooner do we say we’ll end each post with a retailer round-up, explaining how indies can get into the stores mentioned, than we have a situation where we’re no longer sure how to get into the stores mentioned.

Apart from Smashwords, obviously. Which may be the key to all the others. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, if you want to check out all the Sony Reader Stores just click on the Sony UK link above, and go to the bottom right of the Sony Reader Store home page, where you’ll find a menu to the other stores.

If you want to check out all the ‘txtr ebook stores, just click on the ‘txtr UK link above, and go to the bottom right of the ‘txtr UK home page, where you’ll find a menu to…

See what we mean?

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promotional newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.


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