e-bookAn 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

e-bookOne 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.

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. I saw a Kindle Paperwhite at Staples the other day, here in Calgary. It didn’t look so paper-white, oddly.

    They also had the new Sony reader, which just looked weird compared to the PRS-650 with the way it had its buttons.

    They had the Kobo Mini, Glo, and Touch. I rather liked all three of them. The mini would be handy for carrying around with you, because it’s so small. And the glo. Oh, that beautiful glo. I’m not sure how well it would do at night with my tired eyes, but I had half a mind to buy it.

    I do agree with the cost of books. Did you see how much Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep” is going to be? $17.99? Really?

    Pfff. Not that I’d read a sequel to The Shining, anyway.

    I did pay that for a Dresden Files book once, though …

  2. 1. The Kindle has been sold in Canada at The Source for about 2 years. Rogers Wireless had a national campaign giving away the Kindle Paperwhite last month. Canadians been able to buy them at amazon.ca since January and since Nov 2009 at amazon.com. They are hardly “unavailable” in Canada.
    2. New Release e-books come at new release prices. That is a sound model and one followed by print books: new release are generally at a premium.
    3. Tablets compete for our leisure time, along with radio, newspapers, TV, playing baseball with the kids and walking the dog. Don’t blame tablets for low ebook reading. In fact, the opposite might be true as it offers yet another opportunity for ebook eyeballs while using a tablet.

    Readers read — whether the source is ebooks, the library, the bookstore. Certain bloggers twisted the Booknet Canada report saying ebook share in Canada had fallen to 12.9% without qualifying this was Q4, the time when paper books reach dizzying heights of sales for year as GIFTS. For all of 2012, Booknet reports ebook share at 18%, up from 2011 and in line with US trending.

  3. You can pick up a Kindle at any Staples, not to mention The Source as already mentioned elsewhere in the comments. I blame the Kobo’s mediocrity for low rate of adoption and consumption in this country. Amazon was late to the party and it’s a shame because they have a superior product and ecosystem. Sony is still available, but their ecosystem is, I’m sorry to say, almost as bad as their customer service. I still have some 200 books I paid for that I cannot access.

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