Pick n Pay could spark e-riot

By comparison, the Kindle Touch 3G, which was recently launched in South Africa, retails at R2 699.

Obviously, these products are not strictly comparable, but even an entry-level Kindle in South Africa costs R1499 and a Kindle Touch with wi-fi, but no 3G, retails at R1999.

It is clear that, in comparison, the Kobo Touch looks like an attractive e-reader option.

But what is the international picture of the e-reader market?

According to information ­technology analyst Gartner, 11-million e-readers were being used ­globally in 2011. Gartner predicted that this figure would rise to 16.3-million by the end of this year, a 48% increase.

Of this market, Amazon's Kindle enjoys a share of nearly 60%, Barnes and Nobles's Nook holds a 25% share and Japanese company Rakuten's Kobo is hanging in there with a 10% share.

Kobo is a Canadian-based, Japanese-owned e-reader company that has its own e-book service, just like the relationship between Amazon and Kindle.

Kindle's domination
The Kobo store claims to have three million e-books, one million of which are free. The company also says it has a wider, more diverse offering than even Amazon.

Kobo also says it has 10-million registered users across 190 countries, but as one can see from the number of e-readers in the market, only 1.1-million of these registered customers have Kobo e-readers. The others must be downloading e-books to their laptops, desktops, phones or tablets.

In South Africa, Kobo is predicting that it will take 50% of the e-reader market in the next 12 months, ­threatening Kindle's domination in the market.

It is an ambitious target, but with the South African market still in its infancy, the establishment of a firm foothold is an imperative.

Pick n Pay has signed a six-month exclusive deal with Kobo and the e-readers are on sale in 41 of the retailer's stores and on the Pick n Pay website. The deal will also see Pick n Pay earning a percentage of all e-books bought on devices purchased in its stores.

Pick n Pay marketing director Bronwen Rohland said there was no getting away from the fact that the world was becoming increasingly digitally focused.

Michael Serbinis, chief executive of Kobo, said: "We are excited to enter a new continent and happy to be able to do so in partnership with Pick n Pay. Together, we hope to transform the digital publishing market by making more e-books available to more people throughout South Africa."

 


 

 

Price the right touch

 

At R995, the Kobo Touch is an attractive e-reader option.

In fact, influential ­technology magazine Wired rated the Kobo Touch as the number one e-reader in the market in 2011.

It beat well-established competition from the Nook Simple Touch, the Sony e-Reader and Amazon's Kindle.

The light and portable Kobo Touch weighs only 185g, has a battery life of up to one month, and holds up to 1000 e-books.

It is wi-fi enabled, allowing readers to share their reading habits through social media, and has adjustable font sizes.

In its review of the Kobo Touch, Wired magazine called it, "the most natural e-ink reader we've ever used".

The review continued: "Kobo also remains arguably the best choice for a truly international e-reader, due to its wide-ranging set of global partners and willingness to allow content from other stores that use the EPUB standard." The EPUB is an official standard of the International Digital Publishing Forum.

If you are looking for an e-reader to access newspapers and magazines, though, the Kobo may not be the best option because Amazon offers a much wider range of titles.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

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Lloyd Gedye
Lloyd Gedye
Lloyd Gedye is a freelance journalist and one of the founders of The Con.
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