eReaders may not be big in UK

Two interesting sets of UK eReader data points were made available recently – it seems that interest in eReaders is rather low in the United Kingdom.

Waterstone’s announces 60,000 eReaders sold since September 2008

These are the sort of numbers Kindle haters wish the US were seeing -

  1. 700,000 eBooks sold since September 2008 launch.
  2. 60,000 eReaders sold in the same time period.

All this is courtesy Graeme Neill at The Bookseller and he adds details on Waterstone’s rather rosy outlook -

head of e-commerce David Kohn told publishing delegates Waterstone’s believed e-books would account for 8% of the book market by 2013. “It’s something that could be the greatest single opportunity, not just for Waterstone’s, but for everybody here.”

Not sure how selling 3,000 eReaders a month (60,000 in 1 year 8 months) translates to ‘greatest single opportunity for everybody’.

The final piece of data is that ebook sales have grown by 100% in the last 12 months.

The Bookseller’s Reading the Future survey doesn’t see a bright future for eReaders

It’s The Bookseller again and this time they have their Reading the Future survey – a survey of 3,000 people with all having read at least 1 book in the last year. It has some surprising results -

  1. The #1 reading option respondents chose (out of ereaders, mobile readers, netbooks, tablets, gaming devices) was ‘none of the above’.
  2. Demographic most interested in an eReader – 41 to 60 year olds. 
  3. Most interested in eReaders – crime fans. 
  4. Biggest factor that would drive users to buy an eReader – price under 100 pounds (22.23%). The second biggest factor was – if it was as easy to read as a book (19.86%). Guess eInk isn’t going away anytime soon.
  5. Next biggest factors were price lower than paper books (16.84%), simple to use (11.09%), and lots of books available (10.31%).
  6. 73.53% of respondents hadn’t even heard of the Kindle. 
  7. 69% were unlikely to buy an eReader or even dead-set against it. 28.1% said that they possibly or probably would get one.

It’s an amazing survey. If it’s accurate then the fact that 73% of people haven’t even heard of the Kindle ought to give Amazon hope.

The accuracy isn’t a given though – it’s 3,000 survey respondents and some of the questions are spotty. Ex: Which of the following might persuade you to buy an electronic book reader? 

Are things really this bad for eReaders in the UK?

You look at 3,000 eReader sales a month at Waterstones, a paltry 7.3% of book readers probably buying an eReader in the next 12 months, and a weak 20.8% possibly buying one and you have to wonder whether the UK is just the wrong market for eReaders.

Then you start considering a few things -

  1. There haven’t been any wireless eReaders available. The Kindle International isn’t available unless you pay import duties.
  2. None of the latest models (except for the Kindle) are available – No Nook, No Sony Daily Edition.
  3. The only eReaders available in physical retail stores are the older Sony – no Kindle, no Nook.
  4. 73% haven’t even heard of the Kindle.  60% haven’t heard of the Sony even though it’s been selling since 2008.
  5. The selection of ebooks is weaker than in the US and ebook prices are higher.  

Basically there’s a pretty big awareness problem exacerbated by the non-availability of the latest and greatest eReaders.

On top of that you add the dismal economic climate. In the US we’ve had the need to maintain Banker’s bonuses ensure the recession is long forgotten. In Europe events like Greece and Iceland’s blow-ups are scaring people out of their minds. Their benefits and retirement and social security net are all under threat.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that a relatively expensive item like an eReader doesn’t hold as much appeal.

Why does the US always get things first?

There’s a never-ending stream of people upset that the US gets things first and that free book offers are only for the US.

Well, this is why.

69% of the people in the UK survey were against buying an eReader. UK readers are buying eReaders from Waterstone’s at a snail’s pace of 3,000 eReaders a month. Only 10% of UK teens want to try the newest technology while 40% want to wait and see (even the kids are smart customers – Have they stopped watching TV?).

No other country’s people are as willing to take a chance on new, unproven products as US consumers.

Basically, the USA is the testing bed. If a product does well here then people in other countries know it’s been stamped with the mythical ‘Approved by US Consumers’ certification. The testing in the US ensures that the product’s flaws have been polished and enough economies of scale have been hit to create a 2nd or 3rd generation version that the rest of the world can live with.

At some level eReaders are still earning their certification – it’s not helping that neither Amazon nor B&N are releasing sales numbers.

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