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What will happen to ebooks in Australia if REDgroup dies?
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  • March 22, 2011
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  • AU   |   News
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The short answer to the title question? Not much. Amazon, Book Depository, Apple, Kobo and (eventually) Google will just keep pocketing tens of millions of dollars a year from the local book-buying public.

The question in the title was posed to me yesterday by Nick Broughall, editor of local gadget authority site Gizmodo. You can see his post here.

Essentially, nothing would change apart from a bit of rebranding on the Borders ebookstore. If regional copyright is ever challenged, global players will dominate the local ebook market.

Here are my thoughts in full (what’s the protocol when quoting yourself?):

Canadian-based ebook vendor Kobo pretty much are ebooks in Australia – at least in terms of local ebookstores. Kobo powers REDgroup’s ebook offerings – Borders and A&R in Australia and Whitcoulls in New Zealand. They also do the publishing deals with the local publishers, so they would be in a position to step in very quickly should the REDgroup brands wink out of existence here. Really, the only thing that the local companies bring to the partnership is the local digitising and computer infrastructure to run the site.

Dymocks, with its high prices and limited range are, in my view, not a serious contender in the market. In the ebook market, if you don’t have low prices, what do you have? They were the first in the ebook game in Australia, and they’re not setting the world on fire.
The playing field has never been more level, that’s why small local collectives like SPUNC can start selling ebooks – the barrier to entry is low. Hell, I’ve even started an ebookstore to help authors sell directly to the public – it’s called AuthorDirect.net 

I don’t think a new player can dominate here, because the market is global now. That’s what a lot of publishers aren’t grasping yet. Geographic copyright and restrictions are only stifling the sales of ebooks, not protecting them.

Global players will continue to dominate the ebook market here, no matter what happens with REDgroup. I’d love to know how much is spent on ebooks on Amazon sites from Australia. No-one knows aside from Amazon, but it would be tens of millions annually. Certainly more than 10 times what is spent locally on ebooks. Kobo and, to a lesser extent Apple’s iBooks are the same. They will happily take Australians’ money, if no viable local player will. Add Google to that when they get their act together this year.
I would expect a local Amazon store by the end of the year, and definitely an Amazon Android tablet (there’s already an Amazon distribution centre in New Zealand). Hardware sales will be fine, especially with Amazon dominating the market with low cost, great ereaders. The Kobo ereader was OK, but hardware is not Kobo’s strong suit. Only Amazon can really complete with the ultra-cheap Chinese clones.
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