Publishers are readying themselves to respond to an explosion of e-reading devices in the UK in October, amid predictions that the number of devices owned in this country could rise 70% over 2011’s numbers by the end of the year.
Amazon announced on Friday (7th September) that it would sell an upgraded Kindle in the UK for £69, as well as launching two of its tablets, the 7 inch Kindle Fire (£129) and Kindle Fire HD (16GB £159 and 32GB £199) to be sold online and through Waterstones stores from 25th October.
Kobo announced last week that three new devices were coming this autumn: two e-readers, the Kobo Glo and the Kobo Mini, and tablet device the Kobo Arc, available as 8gb and 16gb devices on 1st October. Barnes & Noble recently revealed it would launch its Nook Simple Touch and Glowlight devices in the UK in October—with 15th October the expected date—through John Lewis, Blackwell’s, Foyles and Argos. The Bookseller understands that B&N also intends to launch a competitively priced tablet device nearer to Christmas.
Google’s Nexus 7 has also been picking up sales since it launched in July.
Analyst Richard Broughton at IHS Screen Digest said that the company estimated there were seven million tablets and e-readers in the UK market at the end of 2011—around 10% penetration of population—and added: “We expect this to increase pretty significantly this year—to around 12 million-plus.”
Simon & Schuster’s digital sales and marketing manager Ally Glynn said the publisher was “excited about the potential” of the new devices in the market, which would see the company concentrate more on digital exclusives.
Glynn said: “We do indeed have more digital exclusives to come from some of our biggest e-book authors and are looking forward to exploring what any new devices have to offer in terms of extra content and multimedia.”
Stephanie Duncan, digital media director at Bloomsbury, said the publisher had been creating e-book editions of its bestselling illustrated books, particularly cookery and children’s titles, and expects that “sales of all e-books, straight text, illustrated and enhanced, will increase with the new devices and e-bookstores coming to the UK market”.
Juliet Mabey, publisher at One World said on the new Kindle Fire announcements: “I think this will play a huge role in broadening the Kindle's appeal beyond the e-book reader and into a market where to date the iPad and other tablets have been king, but the e-book hasn't sold as strongly through those devices. This should broaden out the e-book market considerably.”
However Benedict Evans, analyst with Enders Analysis, said: “We are going to have another monster Christmas which will lead to another monster January for e-book sales. But there will be a point in February where we may ask if the market has reached saturation for people who are interested in buying e-readers. It doesn't necessarily follow that device sales lead to people wanting to e-read, either. There is a level of abandonment where people buy them and then give up on them.”
According to Kobo executive general manager Wayne White, Kobo will target its £59 Kobo Mini device at “young, fashion-conscious, stylish people”, as it comes with a range of accessories and interchangeable colour backs. Its seven-inch tablet Arc device will be priced at £169.99 for the 8gb model.
The 16gb model (£199.99) will promise users a better “discovery” of movies, games and e-books. The Glo device (£99.99) has an illuminated screen with an adjustable front light to read e-books in the day or night. Independent retailers will also have the opportunity to sell the devices.
B&N is expected to sell its Nook devices at around the £90 mark to compete with Amazon’s Kindle. Sam Husain, Foyles c.e.o., said he would dedicate specially trained staff to sell the Nook in his stores, and expected a big marketing launch with the help of B&N. He said: “We are not only hoping it is going to be a successful device in itself but that it will help to drive footfall into our shops, so we want to give it a prominent launch in store.”
Blackwell’s m.d. David Prescott said: “Our customers will download books from nook.co.uk but we will get a share of the revenue of every e-book downloaded from the device we sold. The Nook device was by far the best we looked at.” John Lewis is expected to run a significant marketing campaign around the Nook, set to focus around gifting in the run-up to Christmas.