SA e-reading 'a long way off'
Cape Town - E-books will make an impact in SA, but their effect won't be felt for a while, according to Exclusive Books.
The company believes that the cost of the e-reader will remain a barrier to the growth of e-books in SA, despite international trends which sees companies like Amazon dominating sales of e-books and traditional booksellers coming under pressure.
"We think about it and we keep ourselves informed by talking to people. The common wisdom is that e-books will make incremental change to business, and there'll be some cannibalism, but over time, some stability will emerge," Exclusive Books strategic manager Evan Morris told News24.
The company certainly seems to have taken notice of a possible e-book threat to its business and Morris said that they have been selling e-books on their website. The company is also having a summer sale to create excitement around its brand.
"We've invested in the digital platform and we have a website where people can buy books. In December, 8% of our website sales were e-books and we did that quietly, with no advertising. But that's still a much lower consumption in comparison with physical books," said Morris.
South Africans have access to a range of e-reader devices, but cost remains an issue. Apple recently launched the iPad in SA, Samsung has the Galaxy Tab, and dedicated e-readers like the iRiver and Kindle are available. Several other firms have announced plans to introduce competing tablet devices, but there is no rush to buy them in this country.
"The consumption patterns we've seen are 60% of e-books are consumed on a PC, but that's not leisure reading. For leisure reading you need a device and cost is a barrier," said Morris.
According to Exclusive Books, 75% of their customers have seen e-books, and 60% have used a Kindle. Currently, among their customers, the computer is the second-best option for e-book consumption. But Morris expects that the market appetite for e-books and e-readers will increase as more of the devices become available at a lower price.
"I have most of these devices for my job and I can tell you that the reading experience on a tablet is inferior to a dedicated e-reading device."
He said the biggest fear for the company was international firms that threatened to drive out traditional booksellers.
"We are concerned about Amazon, Google and Apple. They will drive the price down and Amazon in particular is in for market share; they want to own the world market completely."
Morris would not be drawn on suggestions that the company might introduce an e-reader of its own or enter the market like Amazon, but indicated that they are preparing a response.
"We're taking electronic books very seriously and there'll be a couple of cool exciting things around electronic books soon."
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