Retailers will need to develop and market their own dedicated e-book readers if they are to compete with Amazon, delegates at Frankfurt Book Fair have been told.
Speaking at a Google panel about e-books, Bloomsbury executive director Richard Charkin said: “Essentially a huge proportion of e-book sales goes through the obvious internet retailer. Whilst the others have dabbled with offering e-books without a reader to go with them, they don’t seem to have made any significant inroads to Amazon’s market.”
Charkin referred to Waterstone’s own e-book device, which is expected to come to the UK market next year. The Bookseller revealed yesterday that the American Booksellers Association is in talks about making its own device and German booksellers Weltbild and Hugendubel launched a device last week. He added: “You need to be able to offer both [e-books and a device] if you are to take any share of the market.”
Tim McCall, Penguin’s vice-president for digital commerce, said it was necessary for a retailer with a digital strategy to have a reader as part of it. He said as consumers don’t show the same loyalty to e-readers as they do with other devices like iPods, there will be opportunities for new e-reader retailers to enter the market.
The panel, which also included Peter Balis, executive director of e-commerce for Wiley, and Random House Germany c.e.o. Joerg Pfuhl, agreed pricing e-books according to the relevant physical format was an outdated concept. McCall said: “In the early days, pegging a digital price to the physical price helped us put a framework on a nascent model that had no touchpoints. It served a purpose but . . . it was not intended to be permanent.”
Publishers said digital had a “short and fat tail” with no retailer yet to unlock how to make a huge catalogue of e-books discoverable. Wiley’s Balis said: “I don’t think anyone has done the best job in developing the [online] storefront for a customer to find the digital content they are looking for.”