Home » Ebooks, Non-US » Big W’s New eBookstore is a Sign of an Impending eBook Bubble in Australia

Big W’s New eBookstore is a Sign of an Impending eBook Bubble in Australia

30 September 2013

From The Digital Reader:

One of the ways to tell that you’re in a bubble is to look for companies making ill-advised and poorly developed investments into markets or industries they don’t really understand. Today I came across one such example.

Big W is a big box retailer in Australia with 178 locations, and they’ve just announced a new ebookstore that will supposedly offer great deals and focus on the Australian ebook market:

Retail chain Big W has launched its own electronic bookstore business focusing on Australian content in a bid to offer “a bit of homegrown competition to the likes of iTunes and Amazon”.

Launching the site, which opens with a library of 300,000 titles, Big W said it would offer “hundreds of titles each month for as little as 99c or free”, aiming to provide “books Australians love including Australian fiction”.

To be honest I don’t see how Big W is going to be a threat to anyone.

It’s not just that they offer an incredibly limited selection of only 300,000 titles (against ebookstores that offer millions of titles) but I also doubt Big W will have much of an impact due to their lack of reading apps.

I spent a few minutes this morning looking at the ebookstore, FAQ, and help pages, and I was surprised when I discovered that Big W doesn’t have their own reading apps for Android and iOS. Having an app with an integrated ebookstore is de rigueur for the modern ebook market because it makes it a lot easier for customers to access their purchases, and yet Big W didn’t bother to invest in the apps.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Ebooks, Non-US

14 Comments to “Big W’s New eBookstore is a Sign of an Impending eBook Bubble in Australia”

  1. I don’t see the correlation between a new vendor having limited supply and access, and this supposed ebook bubble.
    What bubble?

    • A technology bubble is when you see “a hundred players, each hoping for a 5% market share”, jump into the same “booming” business.

      The problem is that in tech bubbles people who have no understanding of the business they are getting into rush in with generic white label products and end up getting burned. Worse, the few customers that bought into their offerings often end up burned, too.

      For example, in 2009-2010 there was a bubble in eink readers with all sorts of companies jumping in with relabled generic China, Inc eink readers, many from the exact same manufacturers. At CES 2010, there were so many that Gizmodo called them “Spam”.


      Most never shipped because the market had already changed and the wannabes hadn’t factored in the side effects of the price fix conspiracy. (After the four hour price war there was no room for generics, even from the likes of Samsung, Asus, or Acer.)

      Over at the Digital Reader blog, Nate has seen (and reported as) generics come and generics go, usually bleeding, with their tail between their legs. So, he is underwhelmed by the announcement.

      The biggest red flag for generic ebookstores today is whether they have a plan for indie ebooks. Too many rely on a business plan of “We’re not Amazon!” and nothing else, thinking the “magic” of epub interoperability is all they need to rake it in.

      In this case, Nate pointed out the new vendor has neither branded hardware nor software reader apps to draw in customers. Maybe Australia is different but in most markets where Kobo and Sony (and, yes, Amazon) have both dedicated hardware and branded iOS and Android reading apps consumers tend to ignore generics without either.

  2. Bubble – high volume transactions of products priced above analyzed values.

    Yeah, those darn eBook prices are shooting though the ceiling.


    • Yes, I’m changing the word to explosion. I don’t expect the bubble to pop so it is not by definition a bubble.

      I’m also going to edit the post.

  3. This is a desperately bad call by the Digital Reader. they are really missing the point.

    It doesn’t matter if an ebook store has only a few thousand titles if they are all big names turning a profit.

    The “millions” in other ebooks stores may sound impressive, but take away the public domain titles, the amateur indie titles that will never sell beyond immediate family, etc and those numbers plummet.

    This is no different from the big supermarkets Sainsbury and Tesco selling ebooks in the UK. From from being a bubble, this is the future of ebook retailing. Every retailer wit the wherewithal to set up and ebook store and get a good supply can and will do so. Expect ebook stores in Walmart, Target and Costco in the near future.

    Finding fault in the ebook stores (these will quickly be identified and easily rectified) may be fun, but rather misses the point of what Big W is trying to do – capitalize on the growing unrest with stores like Amazon which pay no taxes in countries like Australia, and do not even offer a local currency service.

    Early adopters naturally got on board with Amazon, B&N, Kobo and co, but as digital reading becomes mainstream readers will have far more choice of where they can buy ebooks.

    A big retailer, or indeed a small one, does not need any past history in books and ebooks to get an ebook store up and running, but can bring to its e-doors their large customer bases who also happen to be readers.

    Partner retailers like Kobo and ‘txtr are making it easy, but operator with the resources can independently source direct from OverDrive,Ingrams, etc.

    What we are seeing now is the beginning of a market fragmentation that will continue apace over the coming years as ebook stores breed like rabbits.

    • “what Big W is trying to do – capitalize on the growing unrest with stores like Amazon which pay no taxes in countries like Australia, and do not even offer a local currency service.”

      I was trying to get a copy of an Australian book last night that isn’t available here in the States and was going to buy it from Amazon’s Australian branch. I discovered that Amazon doesn’t have an Australian branch. So I don’t see how Amazon can (or should) pay taxes in Australia.

      • “I don’t see how Amazon can (or should) pay taxes in Australia.”

        It isn’t an issue of should or must. If one farmer in Nepal sells a sheep to another farmer, every government on Earth feels cheated at not getting a cut.

      • No, there’s no Australia Amazon set-up, but that’s precisely the point about taxes, and one many small Australian retailers are spouting – that patriotic Australian should buy Australian, or at least from foreign businesses based in Australia – and boost the local economy.

    • First, you couldn’t have left this comment on my site?

      Just because they can set up an ebookstore doesn’t mean they will achieve a noticeable market share. As I said, no threat.

      And with their prices, which a reader told me were higher than Kobo’s, I don’t think they’re going to have very many repeat customers.

      BTW, you’re the second person to point out the issue of a local currency and local connections. I haven’t said this in public yet but I think Amazon will launch an Australian and other local Kindle Stores in the near future. I would have said that in the post but it didn’t come out right (so I deleted it).

      • Sorry, Nate. My West African ISP is not letting me access the original post right now.

        A Kindle Australia site would certainly be a smart move by Amazon. I’m surprised they haven’t done so already. Apple, GooglePlay and ‘txtr have all managed it just fine, and there are myriad small ebook retailers across the country already (many partnered with Kobo), which have collectively seen Zon market share drop from 90% to around 65%. A Kindle store would certainly help stabilize their position.

        The “threat” from Big W comes from its existing customer base, which is not insignificant. Mainstream print readers moving to digital have no particular reason to rush off to a foreign store like Amazon if they already have a loyalty to a local store.

        This is precisely what makes the ebook store of the small indie bookstores viable. Customers will happily pay a small premium to shop at their preferred outlet. If it were all about bottom-dollar price Amazon would have won the ebooks war long ago.

        I’ll get in to the original post at some time and comment further, as no doubt there are other points raised missing from the excerpt.

    • I quite agree. There’s little capital investment needed to set up an ebook store: no capital inventory, basic web & app design, very predictable and scalable expenses. I expect them to spring up like weeds.

      The key for indies and everyone else is going to be distribution into this chaos. (And thanks for the ebookpartnership tip, Mark Williams Intl).

  4. I’m not sure how much this writer understands about the Australian book market. I have relatives there and don’t really get it myself. I just know it’s very complicated and there is a lot of regulation. Since this article didn’t touch on that, I have no idea if the writer took all that into account when making this judgment, but I get the sense he (she?) didn’t.

    • Leslie, from what I can see the Australian ebook market seems to be one of the least regulated. There are a ton of ebook retailers already doing brisk business there and I;m sure many more to come.

      Australisn outside the big cities have long been restricted in what books they could access. Digital opens up the entire country to a literally millions of titles at any time, and retailers are busy taking advantage.

      Without reference to my notes I can think of Apple, GooglePlay, ‘txtr, Sony (yes, Sony have an Australia ebook store selling in local currency), Angus & Robertson, Collins, Bookworld, Booktopia, PagesAndPages, Dymocks, EbookCom, Fishpond and QBD, and have probably missed several more. Plus of course Amazon, and the Kobo international store, and myriad small retailers like Diesel that don’t impose territorial controls on buyers.

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