Friday, 10 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Tolino, aka Germany’s Answer to the Kindle, Expands into Italy, Netherlands

Posted: 10 Oct 2014 10:59 AM PDT

tolino-logo-exact[1]Germany’s response to the Kindle gained its third non-German partner this week, the leading Italian retailer IBS will be selling ebooks on its site starting in November, and will also be promoting Tolino tablets and ebook readers in store.

With 44 owned and partner bookstores, has a far smaller retail foot print than Mondadori (350 stores), Kobo’s partner in Italy, or Giunti al Punto (170 stores), Amazon’s partner in Italy. It’s difficult for this outsider to estimate market share, but I see that the local coverage mentions that serves 2.8 million customers annually.

Formed early last year as a response to the Kindle, Tolino is a shared ebook platform which is supported by 5 German medial retailers and tech companies ( Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Club Bertelsmann, and Deutsche Telekom). It was originally a German response to Amazon, but over the past few months this coalition has taken on a decidedly regional flavor.

In July the Belgian retailer Standaard Boekhandel launched an ebookstore on the Tolino platform, followed last month by the Dutch bookstore coop Libri, and in November the Italian retailer will follow suit.

With the addition of IBS, Tolino will have retailers spread across 4 countries in central Europe with around 1,500 retail stores in Germany and 300 stores in other countries.

Will that be enough to counter Amazon?

Well, it’s not enough to defeat that juggernaut but it does at least seem to be holding Amazon at bay. Boersenblatt quotes Nina Hugendubel, managing partner of the bookstore Hugendubel, as saying that the Tolino platform had around 35% of the German ebook market.

That is somewhere in the same neighborhood of the market share Tolino had when it launched last spring, so at worst you can say that Tolino has been treading water as the ebook market grew. And given Germany’s fixed price book laws, and the way such laws discourage customers from shopping around, I’m not sure one could have expected real market disruption.

650x300xtolino-tablets.jpg.pagespeed.ic.YeVS8TGC_I[1]Note though, that holding steady isn’t necessarily a criticism of Tolino as an idea; it was formed as much to pool resources and reduce costs as a response to Amazon. While the member retailers each have their own ebookstore, they share platform costs and development costs for Tolino’s ereaders and tablets, including the waterproof Vision 2 ereader which was announced earlier this week.


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Simon & Schuster to Dabble in DRM-Free eBooks

Posted: 10 Oct 2014 07:53 AM PDT

saga-press[1]Simon & Schuster announced this week that they are taking a tepid half-step towards releasing DRM-free ebooks. According to PW, S&S’s newest SF imprint will be releasing its ebooks DRM-free.

Saga Press, which is scheduled to publish its first books next spring, is described by S&S as “an all-inclusive fantasy and science fiction imprint publishing great books across the spectrum of genre, from fantasy to science fiction, commercial to literary, speculative fiction to slipstream, urban fantasy to supernatural suspense.” This blandly generic SF imprint was announced in February of this year and has 4 titles scheduled for the spring launch (more details at

“The science fiction and fantasy community were early adopters of electronic formats, and have enthusiastically embraced DRM-free content while showing great respect for authors' works under copyright,” said Joe Monti, executive editor of Saga. “In launching our imprint, we are pleased to offer this convenience to our readers and test the waters of DRM-free publishing.”

Color me underwhelmed. When I first read this story I was all set to say nice things about S&S for considering the idea, but as I lined up all the details I came to realize what a slow and ponderous dinosaur they are.

They’re going DRM-free with 4 titles which were acquired in early 2014 but not published until over a year later? By modern digital publishing standards, that is positively glacial. I know of authors and small publishers which would had those 4 titles out in 4 months, not a year later.

While I’m sure S&S was hoping to look “with it” by testing DRM-free ebooks, all they’ve really done here is to show just how behind the times they really are.

Do you know what I think they should have done?

Take one of their major imprints, for example Pocket Books, and released those ebooks DRM-free. Now that would at least be a strong move, albeit a relatively safe one. Macmillan already took this step with Tor Books a couple years ago with no known negative consequences.

Speaking of Macmillan, do you ever wonder why they didn’t follow up by going DRM-free in more publishing units? I used to think they were being overly conservative, but as I sit here writing this today I am beginning to wonder whether they did not see any positive gain from Tor Books going DRM-free, and thus had no reason to change their current practices.


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