Sad to reflect perhaps, given Kobo’s sterling efforts in the UK, the latest media survey conducted by pollster Kantar Media on behalf of British communications industry regulator Ofcom shows Amazon enjoying 79 percent of the UK ereader market. Ebook services in the period, states the report, “were dominated by Kindle, with 79% of those who had downloaded, accessed or shared e-books in the past three months citing the Amazon brand. This was consistent across all demographics and sub-groups.”
The survey, the Online Copyright Infringement Tracker for the period March-May 2013, was not primarily targeting ebook market figures, but is perhaps all the more illuminating for that. And its pedigree implies greater independence of publishing lobby groups or other entities with an ax to grind about ebook market levels or piracy percentages. The poll sample size was only 631 people who had accessed ebooks over the survey period, from a total sample size of just over 5,730, so there is room for a lot of sampling error, and the extrapolations from this are obviously open to question. But if they are accurate, they are very persuasive.
The survey recorded estimates of book demand for the period March-May 2013. Physical books had 58 percent market share, with 91 million copies shipped, while ebooks held 42 percent with 71 million copies. And, in figures that will comfort many, but might cause mixed feelings among copyright lobbyists and publishing pressure groups, the poll estimated that only some 10 percent of ebooks downloaded in the UK over the survey period were consumed illegally. Factor in the physical print numbers as well, and the proportion of pirated ebooks falls to just 4 percent.
As for Amazon’s competition, no other platform had even 10 percent of the UK market. Apple’s ibookstore scored second highest at 9 percent, and ebook downloads sourced through Google searches 8 percent. Kobo, offered through WHSmith, had only 5 percent, while book chain Waterstones recorded only 3 percent. Incidentally, Amazon also has 23 percent of the UK market for online music, according to the poll, versus 33 percent for iTunes and 53 percent for YouTube.
Within three years, then, Amazon has become just as dominant in the UK ereader market as it has in America, if the Ofcom/Kantar figures are to be trusted. The omens for the competition are not looking good.