The Digital Minds conference in London started today and is a precursor to the London Book Fair kicking off tomorrow. One of the best panel discussions of the conference was centered around the emerging digital book markets in Germany, Spain, and France, and the panel talked about some of the shortcomings and pitfalls of these emerging markets.
Panelists Fabrice Piault (Livres Hebdo), Siobhan O’Leary, and Antonio Fraguas Garrido (El Pais) talked mainly about the French market that falls behind most other major countries. Tablets are big in France right now, with over 1.4 million currently being used. e-Reader usage is fairly paltry with only 145,000 registered devices. Kindle and Kobo currently dominate the landscape and it is much easier to procure the Kobo Touch which is distributed by Fnac. In 2010 e-readers never really gained much traction due to an influx of substandard ones from Cool-ER, Bookeen, and Cybook.
The German market is facing a lot of the same issues as the French market. e-Reader and publishing companies are finding it hard to get one of the largest markets in Europe to adopt digital reading on e-readers and tablets. eBook readers first hit the German market at the end of 2009, but most Germans read on tablets rather than e-readers. The biggest challenge is that 78% of Germans claim not to want to read from a screen, while 85% say they love printed books too much.
Germany has a very established publishing industry, and the second largest book market in the world estimated at over 9.73bn Euros. The largest digital publishers in Germany currently are Verlagsgruppe Random House, Hotzbrinck, the German arm of Sweden’s Bonnier Group, and Weltbild.
Spain is seeing a wider adoption of digital publishing and over 75% of all publishers are employing an ebook strategy. There is an estimated one million tablets and e-readers currently being used in Spain, with over 285k eReaders sold in 2011. Libranda is one of the largest ebook distribution platforms that was founded by the big three publishers in Spain: Grupo Planeta, Random House Mondadori, Santillana. One of the largest concerns in Spain right now is price of ebooks in general. If you look at the VAT prices on printed books it currently sits at 4% while ebooks are much more expensive at 17%.
The ebook market was worth about 18m Euro in 2010 (0.6% of the industry), with no more than 90,000 ebooks in various formats – many PDFs included. Max 8% of printed books are available as ebooks, though many of the main European publishers have built ebook distribution platforms like Numilog (Hachette), ePlatforme (Editis), and Eden (Gallimard/Flammarion/La Martiniere). Digital comics are also on the rise due to Kobo offering a wide array of new graphic novels in its digital bookstore.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.