The Two Rules of International E-Book Expansion

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By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

Go where the readers are and go where the e-books are.

Those are the two “secret” rules of international e-book expansion according to Kobo’s executive vice president of content, sales and merchandising, Michael Tamblyn, speaking at the Publishers Launch conference in New York.

Toronto-based Kobo has recently launched e-bookselling businesses in Germany (October 2011), France (November 2011) and the Netherlands (February 2012). In each of those markets, Kobo hired a local team focused on selling and marketing e-books, with marketing plans and promotions tailored to each country.

According to Tamblyn, the growth curves for e-books sales in each of those countries resemble that of the U.S. in 2009, but working with a smaller number of titles for sale – tens of thousands versus hundreds of thousands. Nonetheless, growth is significant.

Through May of this year, Kobo sold 85% more books in Germany than in all of 2011, 95% more in the Netherlands and 329% more in France.

“These are markets that are starting to take off significantly,” said Tamblyn.

The difference in growth between France and the other two countries may have to do with attitudes toward English-language e-books.

In Germany, 27% of all e-books sold are in English; in the Netherlands, 52% of all e-books sold are in English; and in France, the number is only 6%.

In 2011, most of the content in the Kobo store was English. This year, there is a lot more local-language content, according to Kobo.

“I will be coming back next year and talking about Japanese publishers – and probably more countries besides,” said Tamblyn. In 2011, Kobo was acquired by Japanese e-tailer Rakutan.

Write to Jeremy Greenfield

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