An interesting report is circulating the book blogs, alleging that e-book sales in Canada are down almost five percent. I’ve seen reporting on the Booknet Canada report on at least 3 blogs (for example, here and here and here, but nobody seems quite sure what to make of it. We’re selling lots and lots of devices here in Canada, aren’t we? We’re Kobo’s number one country! So what, exactly, are we reading? Are e-book sales on the decline?
Here are a few thoughts about what may be going on here:
1. Device Availability is Limited
This is partly because the retail scene is limited! We’ve only just gotten Target here, and it opened to much fanfare and little in sales. Canadians were unimpressed with the selection, and the prices were not as good as people were hoping for. So, what we’re left with is many Indigo retailers peddling Kobo stuff, and a handful of less than cutting edge Sony and off-brand stuff at Best Buy, Walmart and the few big-box stores. You can’t buy a Kindle, retail, anywhere.
2. Pricing is Not Competitive on Devices or Books
One retailer, one price! A lack of competitive options means that the market is a bit less hot down here. (And no, a $75 Hipstreet e-reader is not “competitive” for Kobo.) Anyone who was going to buy has already bought, and there isn’t a ton of retail incentives for the new customer. Sure, Indigo occasionally throws in a free case, but that’s about it. And the books? Expensive! Say what you will about the ‘average’ price in e-book best-seller lists, but my personal experience has been that every time I look up a new release that interests me, it’s been over twelve dollars. Maybe I could wait for it to be a ‘best-seller’ and come down a little, but I usually can’t be bothered. I get most of my books from the library these days.
3. Tablet Devices are Insanely Popular Here
Blame this on the Indigo factor—being the only major retail book chain, they are (for better or worse) a tastemaker, and even they sell a tablet. And you can do more on a tablet than just read books! When the Beloved got a Nexus tablet to replace his old Kobo Reader (which he purchased on his first date with me!), I set up the Kobo app for him with noblest of intentions. But, aside from an Adam Carolla book and the new one from the “Sh*t My Dad Says” guy, he’s been spending most of his ‘reading’ time in an RSS app, keeping up with the baseball news. Even a voracious reader like me has found my novel-reading slowed down by magazines, blogs, websites and online content. I still read enough to make the ‘industry’ some money, but a reader like him who only reads a few a year, the loss of that might cost them some percentage points.
So those are my thoughts on what might be going on here. Of course, the report is coming from a survey that reached a limited self-reporting customer base, and is not based on hard sales data. And these things can be very hard to quantify, numerically, under the best of terms. But still … food for thought.