Where can you buy ebooks in Australia? A round-up of ebookselling developments in 2013

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A number of new ebookstores opened in Australia during 2013, while others closed. Andrea Hanke rounds-up some of the recent developments in the local ebook market.

While the news was announced partway through 2012, the withdrawal of Google as a local book retailing partner in January 2013 was one of the first major upsets of the year, affecting local partners Dymocks, Booktopia, the Co-op and QBD, although QBD was not yet selling ebooks at the time of Google’s withdrawal.

This followed in March with the news that ebook distributor OverDrive would discontinue ebook sales from its Booki.sh platform in June. Booki.sh, a home-grown ebook platform provider that was purchased by OverDrive in 2012, helped a number of indie booksellers launch their ebookstores, including Avid Reader, Gleebooks, Fullers, Imprints, Mary Ryan’s and Books for Cooks. These ebookstores subsequently closed. ‘Ebooks, in my opinion, have been a major headache for any but the biggest Australian retailers, all along,’ said Gleebooks co-owner David Gaunt at the time.

In March, Australian ebookstore Booku, along with online print bookstore Boomerang Books, was put up for sale. Booku eventually closed in August, while Boomerang continues to trade through its partnership with Pages & Pages Booksellers.

In April, a new ebook retailer emerged on the scene. JB HiFi launched its own ebookstore offering ebooks in PDF and EPUB formats for all devices that support Adobe digital rights management, as well as dedicated ereading apps for Apple and Android devices. The retailer was already selling a range of ereaders, including Sony and Kobo devices.

Slipping under the radar somewhat, German ereading company txtr also launched Australian and New Zealand ebookstores in the first half of the year, offering local ebook titles alongside international ones.

Pages & Pages Booksellers made headlines in April when it announced that it would introduce a ‘Kindle amnesty’, asking customers to trade in their Amazon Kindles for BeBook ereaders and raising awareness about the limitations of the Kindle. While only a few customers took the bookseller up on its offer, Pages & Pages general manager Jon Page said that the promotion led to ‘countless conversations with customers who have been considering buying a Kindle and have changed their mind’.

In May, Sony opened its Reader Store in Australia, offering a range of local and international ebooks. While the store is aimed at users of Sony Reader devices, the ebooks can be used on any devices that support the EPUB format.

Also in May, QBD become the first Australian retailer to launch an ebookstore powered by ebook provider Copia, and was soon followed by a number of other booksellers around the country, including: Farrell’s, Mary Martin, Dillons Norwood, UNSW Bookshop, The Turning Page, Better Books and Paperbark Merchants. Several other booksellers opened Copia-powered online stores in the second half of 2013.

Also announced in June was the long-awaited launch of TitlePage Plus by the Australian Publishers Association and Thorpe-Bowker, which gave Australian retailers local availability and other information on print and digital books.

Big W became the first discount department store in Australia to enter the ebook market, launching its ebookstore, powered by OverDrive, in September. The store offers ebooks in EPUB and PDF formats, which can be read on all devices that support Adobe digital rights management. Big W was already selling a range of ereaders and tablets, including Kobo, Kindle and Samsung products.

In October, Kobo announced a partnership with the Australian Booksellers Association (ABA), similar to partnerships signed with independent booksellers in New Zealand, the UK and Ireland, and the US. ABA member booksellers who sign up will be able to sell Kobo devices in their stores, and will also get a percentage of the sales of ebooks purchased by their customers from the Kobo store. ‘It has been a mystery to me why it has taken this long to find a straightforward, cost-effective solution to allow bookshops the opportunity to provide ebooks and ereaders in their suite of services. Kobo has provided a simple, elegant, comprehensive and inexpensive entry point,’ said ABA CEO Joel Becker at the time.

The only ABA member store to start selling Kobo ebooks and ereaders before Christmas was Pages & Pages, which previously sold ebooks through the ebook supplier ReadCloud, although the ABA has confirmed that another seven booksellers have signed-up. In Australia, Kobo also supplies ebooks and ereaders to Collins Booksellers and online retailer Bookworld.

The year ended with a flurry of new ebookstore announcements. In November, the rumours that Amazon was launching a Kindle store in Australia were finally confirmed. The Kindle store went live on 13 November at www.amazon.com.au, a domain name that the retailer has owned since 2004 and which previously directed Australian consumers to the amazon.co.uk site. The local site does not, however, sell print books.

Around the same time, Optus also launched its own ebookstore, powered by OverDrive, with ebooks available in EPUB and PDF formats and able to be read on devices that support Adobe digital rights management. Existing Optus customers can pay for their purchases from their pre-paid mobile account or monthly mobile bill, while new customers can purchase ebooks and audiobooks using Paypal.

Finally, US bookseller Barnes & Noble launched an Australian Nook ebookstore in November, which is accessible via an app for PCs and devices with Windows 8.1.

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