As you probably know, Apple has a 15% to 25% share of the global ebook market (depending on who you ask). Many pundits, including this blogger believe Apple gained that market share due to the prevalence of iThings.
Samsung currently has only a small fraction of the ebook market, but if their dominance in Android tablets and smartphones holds steady and if they make their Readers Hub app available on more devices then that could change.
I'm not going to make a wild prediction about the future of Samsung, but if we look at where Samsung came from and where they are now then it's not hard to imagine what the company will accomplish in the future.
Samsung has been interested in ebooks since at least January 2010, when their ereaders were revealed at CES 2010. Samsung showed off 4 ereaders, including a 5", 9.7", and a pair of 6" models, but unfortunately those devices never had much success on the market. First the 9.7" model was quietly cancelled shortly after the iPad was announced and then the others died when the ereader market dropped out from under them. They didn't ship until after the sudden drop in ereader prices in May 2010, and that largely killed the market.
But Samsung didn't throw in the towel.
Instead they turned their focus towards selling ebooks on tablets and smartphones. Samsung first partnered with Kobo in early 2011 and released their own branded reading apps for Windows Phone and Android.
Samsung later broke ties with Kobo in June 2012 and proceeded to start dealing directly with publishers. They have been assiduously pursuing new contracts for the past year, and they even had a sizable booth at BEA 2013 with a private room where they met with publishers.
Throughout all of the time that Samsung was working with Kobo, Samsung had also continued to develop their reading apps (or pay to have the work done by an external developer), culminating in January 2013 with the release of a new Readers Hub app which supported Epub3.
Here's a tutorial video to show you what it looks like:
BTW, this video was recently uploaded to Youtube but I found an identical video uploaded last year. So I would not take the detail about the 100,000 ebook catalog seriously. It's definitely out of date.
Now, if only that app were available on more of Samsung's hardware we might already be seeing Samsung take market share away from the big boys.
The latest info from Flurry, a market research firm, shows that Samsung is the leading manufacturer of Android tablets and smartphones.
Flurry has also revealed that they're tracking more Android devices than iPads and iPhones (576 million vs 397 million). Flurry gets their data from bits of code that app developers include in their apps, so they don't have a perfect view of the market. But they do have actual usage data, and that sets Flurry apart from many so-called analysts.
According to Flurry, smartphones make up 88% of all Android devices (based on a representative sample). That's higher than in iOS, where the iPad and iPad Mini make up 28% of iThings tracked.
BTW, that detail about Android smartphones trouncing tablets brings up an unrelated point; namely that Amazon is probably going to decide to take advantage of that market dominance. I am now half expecting them to release a smartphone as a complement to the Kindle Fire Android tablets. But that's not relevant to this post.
Getting back to Samsung, Flurry says that the device maker accounted for 59% of Android smartphones and 42% of tablets (in the survey group). Assuming that the percentages for the survey group hold true for Android devices in general then Samsung now accounts for more than 300 million smartphones and tablets.
300 million devices puts Samsung in a distant second to Apple, but just as importantly it also puts everyone else in a far distant third place to Samsung. And it is this huge mass of hardware that could be the key to Samsung's ebook market share.
When I last wrote about Samsung's place in the ebook market (during BEA 2013) I described them as someone to be watched. I didn't go so far as to say that they were the next ebook giant, but the only reason I held off was that I didn't have the market research data I just showed you. Now that we have the data it's pretty clear that Samsung is absolutely worth watching.
But before you get too excited, let me add a few lead weights to the balloon. Samsung still has a couple hurdles to get over before they can really grow their ebook market share.
If you're wondering why Samsung doesn't have a significant market share already, there's a pretty simple explanation.
Samsung might have 300 million Android devices in consumer hands but that is not the same thing as 300 million potential ebook buyers. Most of those devices can't access Readers Hub.
This company has a bad reputation for launching new devices with absolutely amazing features but never actually releasing the new device in any single market with all of the features. One tablet owner on the Phandroid forum summed it up best:
I'm starting to feel this is the one thing Samsung does that gets totally under my skin.
When they *introduce* a new device it's done so complete with all the bells & whistles.
When they *launch* this new device, one country gets the bells; the other gets the whistles.
We never get the introduced completed package in all it's glory.
My interest in the Note 8 was fully sparked due to it's *phone* capabilities yet all we get is the wifi version.
You can see this in action with Readers Hub, which isn't available on all Samsung devices in all markets. For example, a careful check of Samsung tablets at Best Buy last night showed me that they could not download Readers Hub from Samsung's app store, even though at least a couple of the models on display did have the app in other markets (France, Switzerland, and others).
The latest info I have is that Readers Hub is only available (in the US market) on the Galaxy S4 and the Galaxy S3. It is supposed to also be released on the Note 2 by the end of the summer, but I don't know that that has happened.
Readers Hub is also available in certain markets, though I cannot say which markets (Samsung won't say). The app is also not available in Google Play, and it won't run on non-Samsung Android devices (not for me, anyway). This too will limit Samsung's success in the ebook market, but I am not sure they will care.
If anything is going to stop Samsung from gaining a noticeable share of the ebook market, it's going to be the fact that they won't let people buy ebooks from Samsung. But that is probably going to change over the next 12 to 18 months.
Samsung might not be interested in supporting the devices they made last year (or in the years before that) but the tablets and smartphones made this year will almost certainly gain access to Readers Hub.
Or at least I expect Samsung to expand their potential customer base to include more Samsung devices in use today, but even if that doesn't happen Samsung will still likely make Readers Hub available on the new models they release in the future.
Availability is going to be the key. As Readers Hub is rolled out to more devices, Samsung's share of the ebook market will increase.
But if Samsung doesn't roll out the app then their market share won't increase. Also, if Samsung doesn't keep their dominance of the Android device market then their ebook market share won't increase.
These caveats are 2 of the reasons why I say that this could happen rather than predicting that it will happen. And that is an important distinction.
Nevertheless, if and when Samsung is one of the middling ebookstores, remember that you read it here first.