Kobo has long been touting their deals with independent booksellers as being good for the little guy, giving them a chance to compete in the same market niche as Amazon, B&N, and other heavyweights. But if Kobo's bookstore partners in the US and elsewhere are having results similar to what was recently reported in Germany, I don't see how ereaders are helping any.
Buch Report has released the results of a survey they conducted in January. 300 German booksellers were asked questioncs concerning the number of ereaders they sold this past holiday season. The results were on the whole disappointing. Problems ranged from image and marketing to the low retail margin on most ereaders and general quality issues with some ereader models.
And of course there was the ever-present issue of permanently losing readers to Amazon.
Numerous booksellers complained that customers didn't see them as a place to buy ereaders; that's what electronics stores and the internet is for. The booksellers also weren't pleased with the smaller retail margin on the ereaders they sold; books traditionally have a sizable retail margin in Germany because of their fixed price laws. Electronics (especially ereaders) have a much smaller markup (Kobo, for example, pays 5%) due to the fierce competition among both manufacturers and retailers.
But the most important detail in the survey results were the generally low number of sales. 70% of the participating booksellers reported that they had sold fewer than 5 ereaders in December 2012. Another telling detail was that the stores that sold more ereaders were all in the higher sales brackets and offered a greater selection, while the smaller stores offered fewer models. This may have contributed to the improved sales.
But still, Five eReaders.
That's so low as to arguably be a waste of time. It's just not generating enough revenue to be worthwhile. Even though bookstore partners like Kobo's signed up with the hopes that they'd get a commission on future ebook sales, I'm not sure how many commissions they could earn if the total number of ereaders they sell remains as low as these survey results from Germany.
And that could spell doom for the smaller bookstores. BitKom reported back in October 2012 that ebook sales in Germany in 2012 were expected to be triple the sales in 2011. If booksellers can't tap into this growing market then they will be increasingly marginalized and possibly even driven out of business.
I don't have current info on how well Kobo's ABA partner stores did this past holiday season, but I will note one detail about the survey group. The 300 booksellers who responded make up a not insignificant percentage of booksellers in Germany who sell ereaders. In comparison the ABA lists only 450 US bookstores that sell Kobo ereaders.
via Buch Report
image by Pen Waggener