By Edward Nawotka
Italians may have gone crazy for the iPad, with more than 300,000 units sold so far, but if Italian readers launch the iBookstore app on their machines they still find little or nothing to buy. While the situation may be frustrating to Italian early adopters, by the end of the month the Italian e-book scene is going to look radically different.
Today, Telecom Italia launches its proprietary e-bookstore (which is featured at a large, stylish booth in the StoryDrive forum). Later this month, Mondadori and Edigita will launch their own competing digital distribution platforms.
Edigita.it is a collaboration between Feltrinelli, RCS Libri, Messaggerie Italiane, along with ten smaller publishers. Together the group represents 30% of the print market in Italy. The platform will launch on October 18 with 1,500 titles available in ePUB and PDF formats, with Adobe DRM. Some 2,000 titles should be for sale by the end of the year.
The e-books will be available through several major Italian book retailers’ Web sites, with Edigita providing the backend fulfillment and downloads.
As in other European countries VAT on the books is 20%—significantly higher than that placed on books—which will result in higher prices to the consumer. The books are expected to retail at small discount to the price of the corresponding print edition.
“We conservatively project slow growth in the market, and expect it will take five years to reach 5% market share, although we wouldn’t be surprised if the market developed much more quickly. The bottleneck is the absence of e-reading devices. At present, among the major manufacturers, only Samsung has a dedicated e-ink device available for sale on the Italian market. But that too is about to change, when Sony releases Touch and Pocket e-readers in Italy also later this month. In late November Telecom Italia will begin offering the Samsung Galaxy Android-powered tablet (priced at 750 euros) and a proprietary e-ink device (priced at 250 euros).
“Right now, the publishers are busy converting their titles to digital formats and booksellers are testing their integration of e-books into their e-commerce platforms,” said Giulio Ferretti, a consultant on who is helping to develop Edigita. “It’s an exciting time.”
(This story originally appeared in the Publishing Perspectives show daily at the Frankfurt Book Fair on 7 October 2010. Download the complete show daily here or click on the image to view the online version.)