Most people probably believe eBooks are newcomers to the book market. I did, but in fact, I found it not to be the case. During my hunt for information, I discovered the concept of the eBook dates back to 1930. According to historians, the idea originated in a 1930 book, titled, The Readies, by Bob Brown. Brown was a best-selling fiction writer and publisher in the early 1900s.
Brown predicted the print book would become obsolete. In his book, he invented a machine that would allow readers to read the text as it scrolled across a screen. This was his description, “A simple reading machine which I can carry or move around, attach to any old electric plug and read hundred-thousand-word novels in 10 minutes if I want to, and I want to.” Brown even described how the machine’s controls would allow a forward or backward movement and increase or decrease the magnification of the font. I tend to agree with the historians; it certainly sounds like an eBook and eReader.
A concept visualized so many years ago has turned into a mega-million dollar business. As the battle continues to wage between Amazon and the rest of the world for market supremacy, I doubt anyone would dispute the sales potential of eBooks. With a digital market comprised of international and national retailers and wholesalers, it’s not surprising there is stiff competition for a piece of a very lucrative industry, an author’s eBook.
How does an author tap into this market and get their book listed on retail sites around the world? First, it’s learning who’s out there to sell your book. Then, deciding which distributor to use to reach the retailers. All distributor networks are not the same.
While Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes & Noble (B&N) are the most well-known sales sites, Apple has a strong presence with Apple Books available in fifty-one countries.
Kobo is a Canadian company owned by a Japanese conglomerate, Rakuten, one of the world’s largest e-commerce retailers. Kobo sells eBooks, audiobooks, eReaders, and tablet computers. Their global reach is extensive. With one of the world’s largest eBook stores, its eReading service provides access to a catalog of over six million eBooks, newspapers, and magazines. Over 12 million readers use Kobo in 190 countries. With distribution partners on four continents, Kobo has access to 10,000 retail outlets and over 100 million consumers. The purchase of Tolino, a major European supplier of eBooks in the German market, increased its sales potential. The partnership with Walmart marked Kobo’s attempt to break the stranglehold Kindle has on the US eBook market.
Gardners, an international wholesaler, operates in thirty-two countries and is the largest UK distributor.
Follett provides digital content to 80,000 schools. The purchase of Baker & Taylor Blio and Axis 360: https://www.baker-taylor.com/index.cfm increased their market reach with the addition of libraries around the world.
De Marque Retail is a leader in the field of eBook distribution. Along with a strong presence in Canada, France, and Italy, they are at the center of an international and multilingual network, with more than 1,600 partners in over 40 countries.
Bookmate is an eBook subscription service founded by Russian investors with 6 million readers. Its primary markets are Russia, Turkey, Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Philippines, Scandinavia, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
Booktopia is Australia’s largest online bookstore.
Scribd is a subscription service with 40 million books and articles. Their website states they have 80 million monthly readers in over 100 countries.
24Symbols is another eBook online subscription service that allows unlimited downloads for a monthly fee.
eBooks.com sells eBooks to millions of consumers around the world. According to the website, they are the only independent eBook retailer that sells in every country in the world and the International Space Station.
Overdrive distributes to a network of 43,000 + libraries and schools in 76 countries. Overdrive is a free service that allows a reader to borrow eBooks and audiobooks. Rakuten, the company that owns Kobo, purchased Overdrive in 2015 and sold it to KKR in December/2019. www.overdrive.com
While these are only a few of the more prominent companies, they do underscore the multitude of national and international opportunities to sell an eBook. To access the vast network, an Independent Author will need to make several decisions.
The first is Kindle’s KDP Select program. Enrollment gives Kindle the exclusive right to sell the eBook for ninety days, during which the eBook cannot be sold on any other retail site.
Once an author has elected to expand, Going Wide, there are options. One option is to upload the eBook directly to retailers such as B&N, Apple, and Kobo. This approach does allow an author to take advantage of promotional opportunities offered by the retailer. It does not, however, gain access to the full spectrum of distributors and retailers. The second is to use a distributor such as IngramSpark, Smashwords, or Draft2Digital (D2D).
IngramSpark’s distribution network by far has the widest reach and includes 24Symbols, Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, BibliU.com, Bookmate, Booktopia, De Marque Retail, eBooks.com, Hummingbird DM, ITSI Education UK, Kobo, Libreka, Libri, LItRes eBook, LIX, RedShelf (Virdocs), SpoonRead, VitalSource, and Wook.
While utilizing IngramSpark’s network does offer worldwide distribution, there is a limitation. There is no option for channel selection, though accepting a distribution agreement is required for Amazon and Apple.
Smashwords’ network includes Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBooks, Overdrive, Baker & Taylor 360 Axis, Blio, Inktera, Scribd, Tolino, Gardners, Odilo, Library Direct, and Bibliotheca Cloud Library. Smashwords has an option for channel selection. For an author who has loaded an eBook direct to a retailer's site, such as B&N or Kobo, this is an advantage. The author can opt-out of the distribution to the individual retailers.
D2D’s network includes Amazon, Apple Books, B&N, Kobo, Tolino, Overdrive, Bibliotheca, Scribd, Baker & Taylor, and Hoopla. D2D also provides an opt-in, opt-out channel selection.
Is there a best choice? It depends on the author’s goals. The answer to one question, however, can be invaluable.
Where do I want my eBook sold?
Apple Books https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201183
Barnes & Noble Nook https://press.barnesandnoble.com/
De Marque Retail https://www.demarque.com/en/
Hummingbird DM https://hummingbirddm.com/
ITSI Education UK https://www.itsieducation.com/