SA e-reading 'a long way off'

2011-02-11 14:34

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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  • Linda - 2011-02-11 14:44

    If you are a regular reader, the cost of an e-book reader is soon recouped as e-books cost considerably less than traditional books and have the added benefit that you can purchase them anytime and begin reading immediately.

      LBS - 2011-02-11 15:34

      It might have it's advantages, but there is nothing like a good book and a warm bed on a cold Winter's night!

      Valis - 2011-02-11 16:14

      No they don't. They're usually the same price and sometimes even more expensive.

      bpow2404 - 2011-02-11 16:48

      I agree with you linda. I have a e-reader which has more than paid for itself..possibly on shipping costs alone. I never go away without it and I know I have about 500+ books on it... for when I want to cozy up in a warm bed on a cold night...or rainy day - 2011-02-11 17:09

      Valis, check your facts - $7 for a new release e-book on amazon and R250 for the real thing...

      Jan - 2011-02-11 22:54

      A real book doesn't require a power source.

  • KK - 2011-02-11 15:10

    Read a few books on an e-reader - it just doesn't have quite the same feel to it when you've finished a book. Nothing replaces a good book. And no, I'm not some old person who does not know how to use a computer - I'm quite young and into gadgets. Also, it's amazing how much our local companies are trying to overcharge us. On average I pay $10 (R75 roundabout) for a good e-book through Amazon. When doing a search on the same e-books on Exclusive, the very same books cost R90. And they can't really use the excuse of overheads with e-books.

      leonard.hagger - 2011-02-11 15:24

      Amazon seems to charge the same amount or a dollar more for their e-books than the paper back version but I find that it's still less than the store price in Exclusive books. Also it's much easier to obtain the book and it's more environmentally friendly. It's also easier to carry around. I personally don't believe there is a great difference to reading a book on an e-book reader and reading an actual book but that's up to the individual. I'm tempted to go as far as to compare it to the vinyl/cd debate. The only major complaint I have is that you can't easily share books.

  • Gorilla - 2011-02-11 15:21

    I had a read of an e-book while in the UK over December. It just does not feel the same curling up in a warm corner with an electronic tablet as it does with a book between your hands.

      LBS - 2011-02-11 15:35


      Shabnam Singh - 2011-02-11 15:48

      I couldnt agree more. The feel of the book as you open the pages for the first time, the smell of a new book and literally, physically turning the pages. I'll stick to my paper-books thanks.

  • Johann - 2011-02-11 15:21

    I bought my Kindle for R1300 in London. I get home and the same ereader costs R2200? Jeez, stop ripping us off!

      otiose - 2011-02-11 17:09

      I bought mine from online, for R1400 (including customs and shipping). Got it delivered to cape town the following week

  • Darwinian - 2011-02-11 15:28

    This is good news. I'm all for "e-everything". No more destruction of forests for paper

      LBS - 2011-02-11 15:38

      A good book can be passed on to generations! You will have to upgrade and convert your "books" all the time!

      Lestor - 2011-02-11 16:53

      The only forests which are cut down for paper are the ones we plant. only an idiot cuts down a tree to make money without planting another one. E-things use unrenewable resources. paper is renewable.

  • dougzar - 2011-02-11 15:33

    I recently purchased a Kindle from Amazon, and I was pleasantly surprised at the ease and simplicity of acquiring and downloading e-books, over 3G or via my PC. The biggest challenge at the moment is finding e-book offerings by my favourite authors, but as this market grows and matures I expect that to become less of a problem. I have also had the opportunity to sample the works of writers I haven’t previously read, at a minimal cost. Although e-books will grow in popularity, there will always be a place on my bookshelf for a good quality paper-based product.

      craigesterhuizen - 2011-02-11 15:59

      What's up Doug, you can buy any ebook direct from Amazon on credit card for around $10 (R70) but prices do vary a lot. When you buy something it gets transferred to your device almost instantly by wireless 3G connection. Compare to Exclusive's ridiculous prices for dead tree editions. You don't mention the names of your favourite authors but unless they are incredibly obscure, you will find them on Amazon along with many emerging authors for bargain prices ($2-5$). The latter group are spurned by traditional publishers for being too high risk. Exclusives are ignoring ebooks at their peril! My wife has a Kindle and is really enjoying it.

      Faiker - 2011-02-12 09:27

      @Craig - I've found some authors that don't like e-books and don't publish them, or restrict them to the USA. Brandon Sanderson, J.K. Rowling for example, Kathy Reichs only has 3 of her books out. I'm tending away from those to the others I find. Kindle's sampling is a wonderful sales mechanism.

  • dools - 2011-02-11 16:02

    lets not forget all the books that are out of copyright that cost you absolutely nothing! kindle rocks my little world...

  • Gareth - 2011-02-11 16:31

    I enjoy reading and agree with the traditionalists about reading a proper book. That being said I have a Kindle and it is great - HERE IS WHY: 1) Amazon have over 1 million free Kindle books as copyrights have expired - where else can you pick up free books. Go look at Amazon for all tities - you will be surprised at the well known books you can get. 2) Kindle books are cheaper - I just downloaded the Stig Larsson book for £3 (R35) where this is about R150 to R200 in South Africa. 3) This guy from Exclusive Books says this ''"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." How can the a book in London cost £7.99 (less than R100) and the same is over R250 in South Africa where everything from labour to materials are chepaer. I don't want to get a debate going about that but the fact is, like the music industry before MP3 players, the public are being ripped off - Roll with the times and be competitive or go out of business. (As a side to that we get unlimited 1Gb/second internet for £7.50 per month - but I still love South Africa and will be moving home next month after 7 years here - woop woop)

      bpow2404 - 2011-02-11 17:00

      hear hear! I love me e-reader !

      D-Graider - 2011-02-11 17:47

      I was also smiling about the "concern" for the international players that might threaten the fact that retailers are shagging the SA consumer through the ears! Have at it Amazon, if you're cheaper, you just got a new customer.

      Faiker - 2011-02-12 09:30

      When even buying the physical book from Amazon with shipping and VAT on 110% of the price is 50% cheaper than Exclusives, I can wait a couple of weeks for the latest best seller. Instant selling on the Kindle for close to the same price is even more attractive.

  • Joe - 2011-02-11 16:44

    Interesting that most people are saying that e-readers will save trees - that's true. However in terms of electricity/energy use for charging e-readers the latest stats are quite sobering and it appears that the carbon footprint is not too dissimilar to the printing of books!

      Johann - 2011-02-11 17:01

      Kindle only needs to be charged about once a month for an hour. No way it uses a lot of electricity.

      Gorilla - 2011-02-11 17:54

      Forestry is completely renewable. Paper is also recycled. Power, Plastic, Silicon and all that other stuff in kimbles is rather toxic I believe. Who kidding who here?

      Mikemcc - 2011-02-12 08:04

      @Gorilla, have you ever been to a paper and pulp plant and seen the environmental nightmare stuff being used to produce the paper?

  • Lestor - 2011-02-11 16:56

    The only forests which are cut down for paper are the ones we plant. only an idiot cuts down a tree to make money without planting another one. E-things use unrenewable resources. paper is renewable.

  • L-H - 2011-02-11 17:58

    Exclusive books, you would sell more e-books if your website wasn't so totally crap to navigate!

  • haha - 2011-02-11 18:57

    I have over 5000 e-books on my bebook and I didn't pay a cent for any of it..I am walking around with a whole flippen library in a device smaller than a book!! I don't go anywhere without my ebook reader and definitely the best thing I bought for myself in a very long time. I would take an e-book over a normal book anytime!

      LUFC - 2011-02-12 09:31

      Hahah a library. Quality

  • tdk25 - 2011-02-11 19:26

    Bullshyte..I have seen soo many people with Kindle's and Sony ebook readers

  • ValMitchell - 2011-02-12 08:03

    I have a Kindle and I just love it. It makes buying books more viable now as it works out so much cheaper. Your book is delivered in 1 minute, anytime!

  • HadEnuf - 2011-02-12 09:13

    I buy technical books in paper form, I will in future buy leisure books in ebook format - I am busy reading the entire Tom Clancy series on my iPhone and it is awesome. When I'm waiting for a lift to work, waiting for dinner service in the guesthouse, waiting for dentist appointment, etc., I just whip out my iPhone and carry on reading. I can lie in bed with the lights off and read without disturbing my wife. SA book purchasers are getting sucked off wholesale - I need to buy a particular technical book - USD 37 on Amazon and probably about USD 25 for courier delivery, add VAT on the book only which the local authorities seem to think is their right and it is about ZAR 490 delivered in SA. The same book on Kalahari is ZAR 767. Not sure what local delivery costs, but we're already into the seriously sucked-off zone !

      Mikemcc - 2011-02-12 10:08

      I have seen the same thing. A textbook purchased and shipped from Aus cost R896. The same text book in SA is only available two months later and retails at R1800!

  • pawsaw - 2011-02-12 14:27

    This is an interesting discussion as there are many visually impaired people and this e- book thing doesn't work for them. It would be fantastic for kids with dyslexia as well if there were a voice facility on the device. Another disadvantage is that SA authored books are not available. Audible books are vital but for disabled people like my mother who is 89 it is difficult to obtain literature on subjects she enjoys. She is a woman of intellect and prefers books which are stimulating to the mind. Tape Aids work up to a point but the actual tape device is extinct. CD's are not practical or durable enough for blind/other abled people. Any suggestions on that side of the problem?

      Mikemcc - 2011-02-12 15:32

      Solid state storage is the way to go nowadays - its robust, cheap and simple to use.

      Val Waldeck - 2011-02-12 16:12

      The Kindle Reader has a facility for automatically reading your book to you. Quite pleasant to listen to. Makes the sky the limit!

  • Val Waldeck - 2011-02-12 16:05

    Getting a Kindle was the best decision I ever made. Carrying my reading matter around makes life so much easier. I don't think I will easily buy a paper book again! Also have some of my own publications in it plus some audio files. And an Internet Course (turned the PDFs into Kindle format). What a pleasure! Val Waldeck Author of Kindle Publishing Made Easy

      pawsaw - 2011-02-12 20:58

      Thanks Val. If there is a facility to read the book to you that would be totally amazing for my Mom! Which versionb does one buy to obtain this facility? And where from?

  • Aristar - 2011-02-13 08:57

    Been reading on my notebook for two years and I can blow up the image to as big a I want or download a free reader to read to me. AND I can edit the info as reuired.

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