Pocketbook USA is in a precarious position for the first time and runs the risk of seeing tremendous lack of revenue due to a crowded e-reader market. The company is seeking to stay relevant in a very competitive North American market dominated by Barnes and Noble, Amazon and Kobo. These companies can offer steep discount on their e-readers which puts pressure on a independent company trying to stay afloat.
Pocketbook has been in business for over four years and has issued many e-readers and tablet computers. The hardware is sound, frequently offering WIFI, Stereo Speakers and a solid build design. The company lacks three primary factors that contribute towards their lack of success in the business market.
The two main concerns with Pocketbook is the cost of the units. The average price for their e-reader is from $180 to $500. This pricing model is too high for most people to afford and they end up switching to cheaper models. This is mainly due to higher importer rates from Europe where the e-readers are manufactured and ultimately distributed to other markets for resale. Another huge concern is the lack of a ebook ecosystem. Most devices that do well in the market offer an ‘all in one’ solution. They offer the hardware and an expansive bookstore for people to purchase magazines, newspapers and ebooks. Pocketbook has a paltry selection of international books via their “Book World” portal that mainly has open source books and not very viable towards your average reader. Lastly, Pocketbook simply has no visibility in North America or in a retail environment. Many companies such as Amazon, Kobo and Barnes and Noble sell their e-readers at major big box retailers like Walmart and Best Buy. You can even find them within bookstores and electronics chains. It is so easy to buy one online or walk to a retail location and purchase one. Pocketbook is not sold in any stores, although they have experimented with Kiosk locations. With no real marketing budget and being virtually unseen in the retail sector, it is easy to see where things are going awry.
One of the first signs that the company was in trouble when they did not attend the popular CES show in Las Vegas earlier this year. Pocketbook has been as staple at the conference for many years and did not have a booth or token delegation. Their new A7 Tablet PC has been pushed back for another six to eight weeks and is currently in limbo. Sources at the company have told us that they have sold less then 20 units in the last three months and are being strangled in the market by lower cost devices.
The company hopes to turn things around by establishing relationships with Chinese manufacturers. They intend on buying very low end devices and marketing them for $75 to $120 to appeal to a broader demographic.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.