Wednesday, November 12, 2014

BPN 1694: Amazon peddles Dutch language e-books (at) last

Today webgiant Amazon has discovered The Netherlands and has discovered that the Dutch speak and read in their own language. So Amazon Nederland has started to offer three million digital books in many languages in combination with 20.000 Dutch language e-books as well as its own Kindle e-readers. But what the hell is Amazon looking for in a country of 16,5 million people and a worldwide Dutch speaking population of 22 million people (Flanders in Belgium and Afrikaans in South Africa)?

Amazon has negotiated with the Dutch language publishers in the past month and have now reached an assortment of 20.000 e-books. This number of titles is mainly coming from major publishing houses. In fact, it is not yet 60 percent of the entire Dutch language offer of e-books. Publisher of the other 40 percent have been hesitant to sign agreements with Amazon, fearing that they hardly would recover costs and would eventually be pressured by Amazon for lower prices.

E-books sold by Amazon have a format which only can be read on its own Kindle machine. So, you have to buy a Kindle and can only return to Amazon to buy e-books. E-books bought elsewhere can be put on the Kindle. This means that Amazon shows monopolistic traces like Microsoft.

Will Amazon make it in the Netherlands? Amazon starts so far only with e-books. Orders for printed books in other languages than Dutch are still to be delivered through the subsidiaries in the UK and Germany. So the offer is not impressive.

Yet it is a start. Slowly Amazon will be able to penetrate the Dutch market for printed books and move from there to an online retail shop. This is the way followed by the Dutch online retail company They started out with printed books, CD media, e-books and moved into retail untill they were bought by the Dutch retail company Albert Heijn. But Amazon will have a problem of scale and culture moving to the retail market. The Dutch market is small and the culture is European and not American. And as the European market is fragmented due to various languages, it will be hard to offer a European product catalogue.

Why does Amazon move into the Dutch market. Not for the Dutch language e-books, but mainly to protect the market of foreign language e-books. Dutch language e-books might help the sale of Kindle e-readers and foreign language e-books.

The keyword here is might. The Dutch market has already a long tradition in e-books. In 1994 Sony attempted to introduce e-books (on mini-discs) with a few reference book publishers. That attempt failed. But by 1997 distribution over internet of e-books for Rocket and Softbook e-readers made a clear start, be it that the displays of these e-readers were still tiresome. When the iLiad e-reader made the e-Ink technology commercial in 2006, e-books became serious merchandise. E-books really took off from 2010 onwards with sales up to Q3 of 2014 of  7 million copies. Main distributors are online retailer which recently associated itself with Kobo (e-readers and world catalogue of e-books) and CB, a central and e-book distribution organisation, mainly working for bookshops, which are selling the Tolino e-reader (just like the German bookshops).

But there is more. Dutch readers are not used to closed formats. They have clamoured against one e-book-one e-reader. Now they can put their e-books on more than one devices. Besides most of the Dutch language e-books do not have a lock (Adobe DRM with only 1,8 pct), but have a watermark (97 pct).

The choice is now on the Dutch language readers. The major publishers have chosen for the extra money from the Dutch language e-books. The other publishers, who did not decide yet, have a choice of really befriending the Dutch language readers and so building up a longlasting relationship or choosing for Amazon.

Pursuing the remark of the CEO of, Daniel Rops: Amazon has come to the party as the last invitee; I would like to add: and brought along a present which cannot be opened and seen by everyone.

For Dutch market details have a look at the Dutch and English pdf infographic:

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