Article is sourced from Irish Publishing News www.irishpublishingnews.com
2011 has seen an upsurge in interest in ebooks and ereaders in Ireland. IPN started to notice a huge spike in search traffic for Kindle’s, ebooks and a number of other devices in November. In an effort to help people make decisions in the run in to what looks to be the biggest ebook Christmas in Ireland so far we decided to write about ebooks and e-readers in Ireland, where to get them, how to use them and everything else. If the piece doesn’t answer your questions, comment below and we’ll respond asap.
The best place to start is to set down some glossary terms that people should have a grasp of when it comes to ebooks.
The first of these is the difference between ebooks and ereaders. Ereaders are the devices one reads on: Kobo, Kindle, Sony eReader, iPad, iPhone and any of the myriad other devices one can read a book on in digital form. The ebooks are the actual digital books themselves.
There are two basic ebook formats azw (Amazon’s Kindle format) and epub (many other outlets). There are several others, but these two are the ones you will most likely encounter. If you need more information about formats, Wikipedia has a good summary here.
Irish customers can buy ebooks in either format. What’s more for epubs, Irish customers have a considerable choice in who they buy their epub ebooks from and in the type of ereaders they use to read them on.
Most dedicated ereaders have an Eink screen. Eink screens only use power when they change page or perform some other action. They use small electrical charges to change the orientation of white or dark pigments contained within tiny capsules. Between them, the white and the dark capsules spell out the words on the screen.
These screens come very close to replicating the visual landscape of a paper page in a paper book. Combined with the form factor for most readers and their weight this makes them akin to holding either a medium-sized paperback book or a small hardback, and often even lighter.
Devices that are not dedicated to ebooks, like Apple’s iOS devices, the Kindle Fire, the new Nook Tablet and the new Kobo Vox tend to use backlit screens which some people like and others don’t. They are also multi-functional devices with many uses.
Some devices have slick end-to-end platforms in place to sell you ebooks for your device. Examples of these platforms include Amazon, Apple and Kobo.
Ebooks attract a 21% (soon to be 23%) VAT rate a complication that presents problems across the EU (for more on the VAT issues on ebooks in Ireland, read this post on VAT and ebooks by Zoe Faulder).
This section will cover in detail may of the platforms Irish people can buy ebooks on. This post covers Amazon’s Kindle and the post on Wednesday will deal in-depth with other platforms like Apple, Kobo and Easons.
Perhaps because Amazon have been the game changer in the ereader and ebook space, there is a tendancy to refer to all ereaders as Kindles, but in truth only Amazon ereaders are called Kindles. Amazon recently launched a Kindle Tablet, the Kindle Fire, with a full colour screen and access to content other than books. This device is not yet available to Irish customers. PC World, Curry’s and Tesco are selling the basic Kindle and a 3G version. Otherwise the device should be bought from the Amazon.com site.
Irish customers must buy Kindle ebooks from the Amazon.com site too*. This wrinkle means that although there are now four Euro denominated Kindle stores (Spain, Italy, Germany and France) Irish buyers purchase their ebooks in Dollars and with a slight price disadvantage.
Despite that however, Kindle is a comprehensive platform with significant features. It offers cross-platform, and device, syncing, samples, wi-fi and 3G downloads, a social network for Kindle users, and a new Cloud Reader that allows a user to read a book online. They also compete heavily on price and encourage lower pricing. Finally it has an impressive (probably the best) selection of titles.
Device Types: The Kindle range is increasingly diverse, starting with the basic option which features neither a keyboard nor touch capabilities. The mid-range options include a touch based pair and another featuring a keyboard. The new Fire tablet breaks quite dramatically with the existing form factor. Not all options can be purchased in Ireland through Amazon.com and retail stores. Most stores will only offer the basic version and the Kindle Keyboard 3G.
Device Pricing: Basic, non-touch device €109-115 in store or around €125 via Amazon.com. 3G device with keyboard €179-195 in stores like PC World, Tesco and Currys and around 220 via Amazon.com (Amazon price includes shipping, taxes etc.).
Ebook Pricing: Huge selection of free ebooks, both classics and self published titles. Many mainstream-published titles from 2l.99 to 9.99 especially from second-tier publishing houses (ie not the big six publishers). Bestsellers trending towards 60-80% of print price especially from big six publishers. Some specialist titles have either parity or more expensive ebook editions. Irish publishers are well represented in the Kindle store.
One of the major reasons why Kindle has prospered has been its Kindle Direct Platform, a way for writers and publishers to self publishers their content directly to Kindle and most importantly to sell it. Buying ebooks through Amazon.com is a bit irritating especially as the pricing is in Dollars. Even so the selection is huge and well priced (mostly). You can complain about Amazon for many other things but their platform is easy to use, filled with good books and makes sense for most readers.
Personally I’ve never rated Apple’s commitment to books as a category and not just because their recently deceased founder dismissed reading as something people didn’t do any more. More importantly for me ebooks never seemed to have Apple’s wholehearted support, iBooks was originally an optional download on new iOS devices rather than a native app/. But I’m beginning to warm to them.
Firstly they are the only ebook international retailer with a dedicated Irish ebook store. Through their iBookstore I can now see what Irish people are buying, at least what they are buying through Apple. Secondly they have a growing collection of enhanced ebooks that offers more than just reading for those easily bored, Finally they are keenly priced beating Amazon by a few cent on many of the bestselling titles.
Where iBooks falls down is its lack of support for computer reading. Unlike Kindle which facilitates both computer reading AND web reading, Apple does neither, a big let down in their ecosystem. ON the plus side, Apple does use the ePub standard with DRM and so
Device Types: The iOS range is huige and includes iPod’s, iPhones and iPads.
Device Pricing: Basic iOS devices begin at €199 for the iPod Touch and range all the way up to the iPad 2 3G 64GB at €799.
Ebook Pricing: Like Amazon Apple offers a huge selection of free ebooks, both classics and mainstream. Bestsellers trending towards 60-80% of print price especially from big six publishers. Some specialist titles have either parity or more expensive ebook editions. Irish publishers are leaking into the iBookstore slowly but surely.
Unlike both Apple and Amazon, Easons is not a platform, in fact it is only a reseller, in that way it’s offering is more like that of a traditional bookseller.
For all that they have a number of positives in their corner. For one they offer a range of devices and use epub and their supplier of epub files is Overdrive which has a massive catalogue.
Another positive for Easons is that they seem keen to expand into ebooks as rapidly as possible, devoting lots of store space to devices and even offering ebooks prominently on their website. It’s also got a trusted name in Irish homes so I;d never rule out a successful effort on Easons behalf to gain a chunk of the market.
They also facilitate download to computers and reading of ebooks on the Adobe Digital Editions application.
Device Types: Easons offers numerous devices from the cheap and cheerful Elonex to the very attractive Sony Reader
Device Pricing: IN truth Easons has the keenest pricing starting at less than €100 and ranging only up to €250.
Ebook Pricing: The range at Easons is good, but not as vast as at Apple and certainly nowhere near as huge as at Amazon. Pricing is also hampered and ebooks are close to print prices in many cases and sometimes higher though to be fair this is a common problem most one just associated with Easons.