Yesterday morning more observant Kalahari.net regulars would have noticed the addition of an eBooks link on their category listing, linking through to a pretty reasonable and well presented eBook offering.
The eBooks section slots easily into the existing Kalahari.net website framework and offers most of the same features found elsewhere on the website. They have done a good job of presenting eBooks in a simple manner and providing good, clear help and FAQ to demystify this topic for those slightly confused or intimidated by digital books.
Their title page info: "South Africa's first eBook Retailer" makes it clear that they are claiming the first to market position in South Africa.
Kalahari.net has lead the South African online retail space for the sale of physical goods, the big question is can they (or anyone else) dominate in the digital space which is a global marketplace with big global players (Apple, Amazon and Google) who all have online stores, large volumes of digital content and either their own devices (iPod, iPhone, iPad and Kindle) or cloud computing solutions (Google Editions).
For more information on the Kalahari.net offering, pricing, publishers, and the tech & DRM behind it, read on...
Kalahari.net eBook offering & pricing:
The available eBooks cover a broad range of categories, the Fiction category appears to have over 2,000 eBooks (based on 86 pages and 25 eBooks displayed per page). 500 of these titles fall into the Romance sub-category which tends to dominate the eBook Fiction market.
Searching for the keyword 'ePub' (dominant eBook format) returns 2,797 results. The price ranges (no. titles in brackets) of ePub format are:
Less than R100 (973)
R100 - R250 (1650)
R250 - R500 (168)
R500 - R1000 (4)
R1000 - R2500 (1)
More than R2500 (1)
Searching for the keyword 'PDF' (eBook format often used for academic & travel publications) returns 49,337 results. The price ranges (no. titles in brackets) of PDF format are:
Less than R100 (348)
R100 - R250 (1752)
R250 - R500 (9765)
R500 - R1000 (9837)
R1000 - R2500 (21285)
More than R2500 (6350)
No surprise to see PDF eBooks sitting in the higher price bracket. This is largely due to expensive academic titles, which as yet have not got an International pricing model (as exists for physical academic titles).
The cheapest eBooks (for those keen to experiment) will cost you R20.66 each and will be Romance titles from Mills and Boon (ePub format)
South Africa's most expensive eBook will set you back R137,313.86 and will be Comprehensive Structural Integrity from Elsevier Science and Technology (PDF format). It is a 5,232 page book, so that is over R26 per page, so you better savour it. The equivalent title in hardcover sells for R75,695.18, still not exactly an impulse buy, but almost half the price of the eBook version!
In many cases you will see the unfortunate scenario where the eBook is more expensive in South African than from global retailers (Amazon, Sony), and in some cases the eBook is also more expensive than the equivalent print book.
Afghan by Frederick Forsyth (Transworld):
Kalahari.net: R109/$13.5 (physical book R105), Amazon: $10.04, Sony: $7.99
Angels And Demons by Dan Brown (Transworld):
Kalahari.net: R125/$22.8 (physical book R127), Amazon: $11.1, Sony: $6.5
Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton (HarperCollins):
Kalahari.net: R183/$15.5 (physical book R267), Amazon: $11.99, Sony: $9.99
It is going to be difficult convincing customers to pay more for something which is not tangible and cannot be shared at your local book club and even more difficult convinicing them to purchase locally.
Kalahari.net will obviously have some discount to play with and I am glad to see that in some cases they are heavily discounting the eBooks, perhaps even at a loss (Amazon style) to drive some interest and traffic.
You are unlikely at this stage to find any local titles in the Kalahari.net eBook range, this is due to their partnership with an International aggregator (see below), and unless local publishers have placed their eBooks with that aggregator they will not appear on Kalahari.net
Publishers & Aggregators:
Kalahari.net it seems have not partnered with publishers directly but rather gone the route of partnering with an eBook aggregator who acts as a middle man between the publisher and the retailer, exactly the same as a traditional book wholesaler/distributor. Some of the bigger aggregators in the eBook world are: Overdrive and Ingram Digital in the US and Gardners in the UK.
Kalahari.net have partnered with Gardners to make eBooks available in South Africa. Using an eBook aggregator has a number of benefits for both publishers and retailers most of which mirror those in the physical world.
1. Single point of contact (technical integration) for both publisher and retailer
2. Neither publisher or retailer needs to concern themselves with technical issues of storing, managing and delivering digital content (eBooks)
3. Independent source of control and reporting back to both publisher and retailer.
Since Kalahari.net has dealt directly with Gardners, in theory any publishers titles which reside with Gardners and are available for sale in South Africa (i.e. have correct territorial rights) should appear on the Kalahari.net eBooks offering. What this means is that it is quite likely that many of these publishers may not even be aware at this stage that their titles have just become available for sales on South Africa's first eBook retail website!
Some of the trade publishers whose eBooks are available on Kalahari.net include: HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon and Schuster and Random House
Some of the academic publishers whose eBooks are available on Kalahari.net include: Elsevier, John Wiley and Springer
On the e-commerce front-end side Kalahari.net have not changed anything, they have simply added eBooks to their already sucessful website.
On the back-end eBook technology side they have the benefit of working with an eBook aggregator (Gardners) who handle the actual fulfillment of the eBook once an order is placed.
The process is quite simple.
1. You browse and select an eBook/s in the exact same manner you would a physical book.
2. You add your eBook/s to your shopping basket and when ready you checkout and pay
3. Your purchased eBook/s are then made available to download via what Kalahari.net call a 'LibraryBox'
4. You can view you purchased eBook/s from your LibraryBox and click the 'Download' link
5. The eBook will download to your computer and open itself in Adobe Digital Editions (free reader software which you need to install)
The download of the eBook takes place from Gardner's digital warehouse, if you watch closely when you click the 'Download' link you will see a website pop up with the following URL: http://gdw.ebookshipping.com/ plus a long unique code for your specific transaction.
Gardners are responsible for the actual secure (wrapped in published specified DRM) delivery of the eBook (ePub or PDF) to your computer.
For those who don't know DRM is Digital Rights Management, the technology used to protect/control eBooks. I am not going to discuss the merits of DRM as that is entirely separate debate.
In most cases publishers determine if DRM should exist on a title and what levels of DRM (i.e. copy, printing, no. of devices, etc). They communicate this in the metadata they supply to either aggregators or directly to retailers. It is then the responsibility of the aggregator or retailer to apply and enforce that DRM.
My only criticism of Kalahari.net is that they are not displaying the DRM information when you view a specific eBook. It is common practice to show the customer what level of DRM exists so they can make an informed decision about purchasing that eBook.
It is still early days for eBooks in South Africa, but with big global players & devices entering the market the demand for eBook content is only going to grow. The question is, where will South African customers buy their eBooks, from local retailers or global players?