Why and How the Samsung Readers Hub Could be the Next iBooks

f1d45ce48bfeae82acce8721ebfb678b[1]A publisher friend of mine asked me for help the other day. He wanted to get his ebooks into Samsung's ebookstore, because IHO Samsung could become the next major ebookstore in the not too distant future. He thought that Samsung could conceivably have 10% of the global ebook market by the middle of 2015. Basically he thinks Samsung could pull off the same trick as Apple, only on a smaller scale (and without breaking the law). He could well be right. Update: A reader has commented upon the fact that I didn't mention whether my publisher friend got his ebooks into Samsung ebookstore.  I connected the publisher with my contact at Samsung, but that was only a couple days ago.

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.

About Nate Hoffelder (11463 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

27 Comments on Why and How the Samsung Readers Hub Could be the Next iBooks

  1. In my opinion, the biggest caveat is that Samsung sucks at these kinds of services. I’ve used a Note 2 for 9 months and close family members have been using Samsung phones and tablets for over two years and I can’t think of a single Samsung-proprietary service that’s even relevant (as opposed to features where Samsung’s spaghetti style has found a few useful contributions). At best you ignore them (e.g. Chat ON) and at worst they’re painful hassles you’re thankful you can disable it you have ICS or above (e.g. S Voice).

    • That may be true but I don’t think it matters. Apple sold ebooks even though the initial release of iBooks was only marginally functional. And Kobo and B&N are still selling ebooks even though their sites continue to only be marginally functional.

      And the thing is, my friend’s market research suggests that Samsung is already selling an appreciable amount of ebooks in some markets.

      • It’s all about reaching casual readers.
        People looking for a way to cheaply read the odd bestseller or two a year aren’t going to buy a dedicated reading device or worry too much over the quality of the reading app.
        If they reach even 5% of their installed base and get them to buy 2-3 ebooks a year it’ll be a nice bit of spare change.
        They’ll be a player but they need to ship the app.

  2. I have the Readers Hub (had to get it off XDA Forums) on my Galaxy Note 8.0 and 10.1. I can’t BUY any books through them, but I can import Epubs I already own. The one thing that Readers Hub does that no other ebook reader does, it lets me write free hand all over the pages of my books, in the margins, wherever. For that alone its worth using. However I still won’t buy books from them, I’d just using it when I want to mark up a book.

    Reason being, I really want to keep my book purchases in one place. I have nearly all in amazon, a handful at Fictionwise and a couple at BN. Sometimes I get mixed up where my book is, having them in one place is helpful to me.

    But back on subject, Readers hub and the Note Tablets are an awesome combination.

  3. Samsung achieved their hardware market dominance through gadget spam. How many different versions of the Galaxy S4 do people really want (at least three), and then how many other devices do they have? They make a lot of plastic, sure, and it ends up in a lot of pockets. I know Android is now the leading mobile software platform, but that’s because it’s on hundreds of devices from dozens of manufacturers; iOS is on iDevices exclusively, and there’ve only been, what, two generations of iPhone at a time (current and previous)?

    The big thing Amazon and Apple have that Samsung doesn’t is simple: customer accounts with credit cards tied to them.

  4. So you start off this article with wanting to get the books into the site and then never say if you did and how it is done. Kind of a weird lead to write since the article is more about Samsung’s corporate competence and not about GETTING THE BOOKS ON THE SITE.

  5. I’m interested in the “how” as well, Nate.

  6. mark williams international // 29 August, 2013 at 7:42 am // Reply

    I’ve been saying for the past year that Samsung is the one to watch. The key is not to obsess over the US market, where the lines are already drawn, but over the as yet untapped international markets, which will dwarf the US market even for English-language books over the next few years.

    As and when Sony and Samsung devices come with their respective digital hubs built in these will be game-changers in the real world beyond the current key markets. Apple is a product for the rich, and Amazon is a river so far as most of the world is concerned.

    I live in West Africa in a country where there are no MacDonalds, no Starbucks and certainly no Amazon, Apple or B&N. These are completely unknown names here. yet we have Sony stores and Samsung stores.

    In an article on the Argentina ebook market recently (the Buenos Aries Book Fair had over a million visitors this year) Amazon and Apple were described as “non-entities”. It’s a safe bet there are very few people in Argentina who have never heard of Sony or Samsung…

    Sony and Samsung have international brand recognition the likes of Amazon can only dream of. the ebook market a few years from now will be very, very different fro today.

  7. mark williams international // 30 August, 2013 at 4:15 am // Reply

    Sony got off to a bad start with overpriced ereader devices and a poorly handled ebookstore, but the new Reader Stores are much more user friendly and more importantly they are international. Seven stores and counting. Like Kobo they have accepted they missed the boat for the US market and are focussing their energies elsewhere.

    Sony may not be big on ereader sales, but they are not insignificant. More importantly the digital hub can / will be used on tablets, smartphones, TVs, etc. TVs with a built in hub will be the biggie for both Samsung and Sony – perfect for film and music downloads and with the ebook store as an add-on. Still a year or three away from being significant, but it will come.

    The other key is epub. Amazon’s lock-in with mobi files is a double-edged sword. Early adopters who rushed to buy Kindles are going to stay with Amazon, but as mainstream readers turn digital they will buy from wherever is convenient, and will value the ability to read an epub on whatever device they have except a Kindle ereader. You don’t need a Sony ereader to buy from the Sony Reader Store.

    I love the Sony GB store because it is clean and crisp, and it’s an ebookstore. They don’t shove their other Sony products in your face and don’t try to sell you diapers or dog food. And of course they don’t toy with the charts to promote their own books.

    BTW, where DOES Samsung get their ebook feeds from? I’ve been unable to get a sensible response from them on that.

  8. Nate, can I get the “how” information as well?

  9. I have a Galaxy Tab 3 from Dubai with preinstalled Readers Hub.
    Obviously (like most apps…) this is still a beta version at it´s best.
    I encountered plenty of problems with .epub files, including my own.
    Interesting is: all these problems never come up with “grown up” e-book readers or with calibre under Windows.
    I am using Sigil to check if the problem is within my e-book (it is astounding how many commercial e-books are absolutely faulty) but even 100% clean e-books display wrong or simply die.
    The problem is: where can I get in contact with the developer? Under Windows usually no problem – even if your report is usually ignored – but you have at least the impression to have helped other users.

  10. I am an ebook publishers, with over 12,000 titles. I do business with Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple. I would like to sell my books through Samsung as well.

    How can I do so? Who should I contact for details?

    There is no clue at their web site. And their customer service is a dead end.

    Richard Seltzer

  11. Dear Nate,

    Thank you for the article, it was very, very informative and interesting.

    Could I be a pain and request the same information above?

    Thank you for your help!

  12. How to submit ebook to Samsung for resale?

    As publisher from Indonesia, I also interesting sell my ebook through Samsung. Can you tell me who should I contact for details?

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