The Australian e-book and e-reader retailers have admitted that issues of fragmentation and and consumer confusion must be addressed if the local market is to move beyond hype.
Dymocks general manager of e-commerce, Michael Allara, told Computerworld Australia that while the store’s e-book range complemented the physical book range, both in store and online, the format would not replace physical books.
“E-books have not grown in line with the industry hype and publicity of the last 12 months,” Allara told Computerworld Australia. “We believe this is mainly because the majority of Australian readers still prefer physical, paper-based books, for a broad range of both practical and emotional reasons.
“On top of that, the e-book market in Australia is still extremely fragmented and confusing for many readers."
REDgroup Retail, parent company of Borders and Angus and Robertson, group communications manager, Malcolm Neil, echoed Allara's sentiment, saying the local e-book market was “absolutely” fragmented and did not meet customer expectations, however noted it was improving daily.
“Given that the market was maybe a few hundred thousand dollars beforehand and is now on track to do millions, it’s grown amazingly,” he said.
“If we were to look at when we launched we might have been doing a couple of hundred e-books per day, we’re doing well over a thousand a day now.”
However, Neil disagrees that e-books haven’t met industry hype, claiming they have actually exceeded the industry’s somewhat “sceptical” expectations, along with the demand for e-readers.
According to Neil, Borders was taken “by surprise” when it launched its Kobo e-reader back in May.
“We sold five times as many than expected in those first couple of months as we scrambled to come to grips with demand, we’d done over 20,000 units by September this year,” he said.
In June, Dymocks furthered its multi-channel approach with the launch of a new online tool aimed at providing consumers with near-real time information on the availability of a given book at their local Dymocks outlet. The tool queries a central database that contains inventory information for Dymocks 97 stores across Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.
The company also uses the dymocks.com.au as the primary hub for customers looking for stores, books, upcoming events, competitions and offers, or for feedback. It also runs Booklover, from which members can access their accounts and offers online as well as receiving email updates.