Australian eBook Market Heats Up
JB Hi-Fi Books sells ebooks in Epub and PDF from all the major publishers, including Hachette, Lonely Planet, Penguin, Random House, Allen & Unwin, Pan Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Text Publishing. The ebooks can be read on JB Hi-Fi’s newly released Android and iOS apps as well as on most ereaders.
This chain has around 180 stores across Australia, and serves a national population of about 23 million. In addition to selling ebooks, JB H-Fi also has a streaming music service. Both the ebooks and the music service are only available to Australian residents, and ebook buyers will need a mobile phone number before they will be able to purchase content.
That sounds like a strange move on the part of JB Hi-Fi, shutting out part of the market. On the other hand the latest available stats show that there are around 10 million smartphones in Australia, and around 15% of the population have a tablet (both stats from September 2012).
There is no mention of plans to release a branded ereader, and I do not expect them to do so. This chain already sells quite a few compatible models so there is little reason to invest directly in hardware. On the other hand, I would not have expected JB Hi-Fi to launch an ebookstore in the first place, so what do I know.
As I look back over the past 6 months, it’s beginning to look like ebooks are a low-cost, moderately profitable investment for retailers. In addition to JB Hi-Fi, other chains including Dymocks as well as Sainsbury’s and Tesco (both in the UK) have invested in ebookstores. Sony and Samsung also continue to invest in their ebookstores by offering better reviews, rich content, and improved support for Epub3.