As reported in The Bookseller and France’s ActuaLitté, UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s Supermarkets will stop taking orders for printed books online and move to ebooks only by the end of February 2014. Sainsbury’s will still continue to sell books as well as other media through its bricks-and-mortar stores, but will only use its eBooks by Sainsbury’s website as an online platform for book sales.
Sainsbury’s already sees ebooks as a serious enough business to position eBooks by Sainsbury’s as a direct rival to Amazon’s Kindle Store in the UK. Evidently, it also has pulled back from rivalry with Amazon in the online print bookselling space. Also ironically, Sainsbury’s originally moved into the ebook space seeking partnership “with the publishers HarperCollins, Penguin and Random House Group,” likewise left far behind in the print book realm. As quoted in The Bookseller, a Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “We see that the online opportunity lies in digital products, with physical music, books, games and films sold in our stores. This move is in line with wider industry trends towards on-demand entertainment, and part of our focus on the fast-growing download and streaming market. ”
Streaming and on-demand services have also been fingered as the cause for the pullback in digital music sales recently reported by Billboard. But Sainsbury’s decision to withdraw from print book online sales suggest that this is anything but a lifeline for print publishing. Sainsbury’s key rival Tesco’s decision to launch its Hudl tablet and the coupled Blinkbox ebook and digital media service also makes even more sense in the light of Sainsbury’s own move. The UK’s major retailers are converging on realtime delivery of digital media, and seeking ownership of as much of the delivery platform as they can, and physical media are being left behind.