Deutsche Telekom/Ciando Partnership Says “Game On” to German E-book Market

In Europe by Siobhan O'Leary

booksON

By Siobhan O’Leary

It’s “game on” — or is that “books on” — in Germany when it comes to the e-book market.

Sensing an opportunity to broaden its customer base given last year’s marked increase in e-book sales, German e-book retailer Ciando.de has teamed up with German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom to launch a second e-book platform called BooksOn.de. The site offers the same selection as Ciando.de, so what exactly is the reasoning behind launching a second one?

According to Ciando’s CEO, Dr. Werner-Christian Guggemos, it’s all about the target audience, emphasis and presentation. “More than the platforms we have been hosting so far, BooksOn clearly addresses a younger audience. When it comes to the content side, BooksOn focuses on fiction and entertaining e-books,” he said.

The new site also has a cleaner, more user-friendly look. He added that, although the selection is exactly the same on the two platforms, having both enables Ciando to “address both audiences with their specific needs and interests in a better way. The presentation of the content is completely different.” There are, however, no cross-promotional strategies in place at the present time.

Based in Munich, Ciando is one of the leading e-book retailers in the German-speaking world, and currently has about 35,000 titles available from 450 publishers — from Springer to Haufe to Hanser — in EPUB, PDF and other e-reader formats. Along with the traditional download, customers can also read e-books online. They can also download a book they’ve purchased up to two times, whether it’s a fiction or a professional title.

Ciando also provides support to many of its partner publishers, including Thieme and C.H. Beck, to distributing their titles electronically via their own Web sites. It is also linked to many other retailers, including Weltbild, buecher.de and buch.de.

The BooksOn brand and domain are actually owned by Deutsche Telekom and licensed to Ciando. There are clear benefits to working with DT, most obviously the fact that DT already has the tools to reach a huge audience. “The traffic DT can produce for any platform is impressive and is capable of bringing a customer base in touch with e-books that has so far been completely unfamiliar with that way of consuming books,” said Guggemos. In addition, the Web site is actually linked to the online shop of t-online, where customers can also purchase either Hanvon’s Hexaglot N 518 e-reader or the Story e-reader from iRiver.

E-book pricing is a force to be reckoned with by just about anyone involved in selling e-books, be it Ciando or Amazon. However, the issue takes on a different twist in Germany in light of the fixed book price law. As is the case with printed books in Germany, an e-book must be sold at the same price everywhere, regardless of platform. Ciando views this is as a benefit, rather than as a challenge.

“The fixed book price law is rather an advantage at the stage of the market which we are currently in,” says Guggemos. “As a consequence of the law, the users’ expectation in regards to the pricing of a book is based on the printed edition’s [price].” He finds that the German customer is prepared to pay higher prices (of course this doesn’t mean that Germans don’t expect to pay less for an e-book than they would for a printed book, due to fixed price laws.)

If competition isn’t focused on price, then how is Ciando attempting to distinguish itself from, say, a market leader like Amazon? Ciando and BooksOn, he argues, support a wider range of devices and thus offer better access and services to the average customer. For one, BooksOn offers customers unlimited online access to the e-books they’ve purchased, in addition to the downloaded product. On top of that, they offer guaranteed reload in the event that a customer loses his or her device or gets a new computer, etc.

For all the positive impact the Kindle has had on the e-book market, he points out that, “in spite of some improvements, the Kindle still is a pretty closed system.” The iPad too will likely be closed. The key for Guggemos is flexibility and expanding penetration, something that the partnership with Deutsche Telekom automatically augments.

Germany’s largest e-book sales channel together with Germany’s leading telecoms company is a potentially powerful partnership, indeed.

VISIT: The Web site of BooksOn.de

DISCUSS: Are specialty e-bookstores the way forward for e-books?

About the Author

Siobhan O'Leary

Siobhan O’Leary is a literary agent, translator and writer based in Berlin. She previously worked in the Foreign Rights department of the Crown Publishing Group (Random House) and at the publishing consulting firm Market Partners International.