Ireland

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Making Frenemies: Kobo, Easons & Ebooks In Ireland

20131030_192630Easons, which once had ambitions to launch its own ereader, has joined forces with Kobo. The deal will see Easons selling Kobo devices in its 60 stores and has attracted little negative comment unlike Waterstones deal with Amazon last year. In fact it seems, so far, to have been pretty universally welcomed in the Irish trade.

Easons has, despite the aforementioned ambitions, chosen the path of least expense with regard to making its ebook offering credible and coherent. That meant, although its e-store concept was attractive, it was selling several different brands of device and its ebook platform was off the shelf and was not always as smooth as possible. What’s more its options were somewhat limited. Tesco has been selling Kindle ereaders since before last Christmas at prices well under €100 and Amazon has spent hundreds f millions making those devices and the ecosystem surrounding them, very user-friendly. The Waterstones Kindle match-up has sat oddly with the trade, the deal has also put Kindle ereaders and tablets in front of readers in many places. So Easons has been faced by deep pocketed rivals and the most likely platform partner already pretty much wrapped up with rivals.

We don’t yet know how successful this move to partner with Kobo will be. Easons is still offering Sony ereaders from its website (on 2nd November) and Kobo’s ebook offering not yet live through the retailer’s website either. Even so, Kobo has launched a new consumer facing ebook site for Ireland which will surely power Easons ebook store when the partnerships rolls out properly. The site’s not perfect yet, for instance, I can’t yet find out where to but one of the company’s tablets in Ireland yet, but that’s an easily resolved issue.

Irish facing stores are a rarity in the ebook space, on Kindle, users must choose between buying their ebooks from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. While the process is fine and workable, it still presents pricing challenges and means picking out Irish bestsellers can be hard. Apple offers an Irish facing ebook store but there’s every indicator that sales through the store have been relatively low.

The bigger question for me is what will all this mean for ebooks in Ireland. The last year or so has seen most Irish publishers begin to take ebooks very seriously with some publishers quietly indicating that digital sales are no accounting for double-digit percentages of units sold (though often a lower percentage of revenue given the disparity in price). The best indications I’ve seen suggest that while fiction is the leader, there are some fine performances  in non-fiction too and that backlist is proving its worth yet again.

“One in five books sold on Easons.com are ebooks”

Interestingly, Conor Whelan, Easons MD, said at the launch of the Kobo/Easons partnership (which took place at the launch of Kobo’s new Irish offices, itself during the Dublin Web Summit) that: “One in five books sold on Easons.com are ebooks” a fact that sailed over many people’s heads, but struck me as a very nice nugget of information. It indicates that Easons is doing much better at selling ebooks on its own than we might previously have imagined, thus suggesting the Kobo partnership might really drive ebook take up and sales in Ireland if it can connect with readers.

I’m intrigued that the offering will include more that just the ereaders. Kobo’s tablet offering is really quiet good (in the non-iPad league that is) and at €149.99, the Kobo Arc 7 will provide Easons with a reason to get non-readers in the door that the ereaders on their own simply will not. In fact at that kind of price point, the tablet may well be the most attractive part of the device line up.

Kobo has found a strong partner to grow mind-share and market share in Easons. It does have a very large presence on the high streets of Ireland as well as an impressive brand and awareness in Irish readers mindsets. The company also runs highly successful media campaigns in the run-up to Christmas and ereaders and tablets will be a leading gift category yet again in 2013 and ebooks still have lots of room for growth in Ireland.

The problem is that Kindle is dominant and massively so, and will not be pushed aside  easily. It will require a by a determined new brand and dogged execution both on the device side of things (which means hoping Easons can deliver) and on the ebook sales and promotion side of things (which means work for Kobo and its staff).  It does seem to me though that even if Kobo only manages to build a secure second player position, it could be to both its and Easons advantage. It the companies can make it work, we might begin to see the kinds of percentages that the US & UK have been seeing over the last year or 25-30% units being sold in digital form.

Here’s hoping!

Today in Irish History, 6 December 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty is Signed

Great piece on the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 by John Dorney over at my newer (and better treated website) The Irish Story:

By the time of the Treaty negotiations, the partition of Ireland was therefore an established fact and no longer up for negotiation. Thus the Unionists, under James Craig, did not even take part in the Treaty talks. The Sinn Fein delegation insisted that they could not accept a settlement that made partition permanent, but the only element of the northern situation to be seriously discussed was the future of counties Fermanagh and Tyrone, both of which had Catholic majorities. The Irish wanted a county by county referendum on inclusion into the northern or southern states.

What they got in the end was that Northern Ireland as a whole was given the option of uniting with the southern state after a year. There would also be a Border Commission set up to arbitrate on how the border could be changed to reflect the wishes of the local population. It was the hope of Irish delegation that Northern Ireland’s viability would eventually be undermined by the defection of much of its Catholic-populated western and southern territory to the southern state. Nevertheless, the Treaty confirmed the partition of Ireland in the short term.

Today in Irish History, 6 December 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty is Signed.

Monday ReformCard Meeting

Warning, NOT PUBLISHING RELATED

So it’s election time in Ireland. One of my friends, Johnny Ryan, is one of the bods behind ReformCard.com an interesting experiment to rate and rank Irish political parties’ plans for political reform. They are having a meeting at lunchtime on Monday where the parties will get a chance top respond to their assigned rank. It should be fun! See Johnny’s note below:

Re: Meeting – Monday

Hi!

Joe and I are hosting a Reformcard event on Monday that we would like to invite you to. Attendance is free, and all are welcome.

We’re bringing representatives from all the major political parties to the Sugarclub at lunch time on Monday 21st, and they are going to respond to their Reform Scorecards and to the crowd.

This will be the last opportunity for most people to directly engage with the political representatives before the election – which will be only 4 days away by Monday.

Details: Monday, 21 Feb, at 1.00 at the Sugar Club on Lesson St. Dublin 2. The event is a Reformcard public forum, and Pat Leahy of the Sunday Business Post will be moderating.

Pat Rabbitte, Labour Party; Eamon Ryan, Green Party; Phil Hogan, Fine Gael; Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein; and Averil Power, Fianna Fail; will be speaking.

Admission is free – Transparency International are covering costs.

Full details are on the event’s Facebook page (you can RSVP here too):
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=198142726878511

Poster + map are at
http://www.reformcard.com/realreform

To see recent media coverage about Reformcard seehttp://www.reformcard.com/media

Please pass the word around – the more the merrier.

Johnny

Folks Quoting Me | Final chapter for much-loved Dublin bookstore – The Irish Times – Thu, Feb 03, 2011

I’m quoted (wearing my IPN hat) in the Irish Times today about the Waterstone’s closures in Dublin. Real shame those stores are closing:

Eoin Purcell editor of Irish Publishing News says the Dublin closures are particularly unfortunate given the city’s new title of Unesco City of Literature. “I think there is great sense among readers, writers and publishers that we are losing something. It is a real shame. People will miss it. The Dawson Street branch is a fantastic store with enormous range. Some books there you wouldn’t find in most stores. It has an amazing military history section, for example. You can find these books online but going to the shelf and browsing and looking through books – there’s nothing like it.”

via Final chapter for much-loved Dublin bookstore – The Irish Times – Thu, Feb 03, 2011.

Stories Don't Really Come Better Than This | The great Irish painting that turned up on eBay – The Irish Times – Sat, Oct 02, 2010

This story speaks for itself!

There is a common assumption that Irish artists of the late 19th century transcended the harsh realities of political and economic life either by emigrating and assimilating or by staying put but avoiding subjects that might mirror or create discontent. Mulvany’s The Battle of Aughrim�, however, places visual art at the centre of an emergent nationalism traditionally perceived as the preserve of poets and playwrights, journalists and politicians.

Mulvany chose a propitious moment for the action of the painting, the momentary victory by Jacobite forces over the Williamite army at Urraghry on July 12th, 1691, before their subsequent calamitous defeat on the Hill of Aughrim, in Co Galway. By showing the weakest link in the Jacobite position Mulvany illustrates the bravery of the Irish as they took on the superior forces of William. But when the Jacobite commander Lieut Gen St Ruth was decapitated by a cannonball, near victory became a rout. In a striking prefiguration, the painting depicts a Williamite soldier, in the centre of the picture, staggering backwards as his head is severed from his neck.

The myth of Aughrim is largely built on the randomness of the defeat – the decapitation of St Ruth – as one stray cannonball consigns Ireland to another 200 years of subjugation. As if to emphasise this, the decapitation of the British soldier in the painting signals, in its one-on-one combat, the valour of the Irish by comparison with the contingency of the British victory. From near triumph to resounding defeat, the story of Aughrim was subsequently reclaimed in Irish cultural memory as an enduring symbol of entitlement, a site for future resurgence.

via The great Irish painting that turned up on eBay – The Irish Times – Sat, Oct 02, 2010.

Quick Link | Mass murder now suspected of Irishmen at Duffy’s Cut | IrishCentral

This is an interesting story the story of the Mass Grave at Duffy’s Cut. As I recall an Irish production company made a film about this a few years ago. UPDATE: Yup it was Tile Films and there’s a video too.

In the summer of 1832 a group of 57 Irish immigrants came to the area west of Philadelphia to work on the construction of the railway line. Within six weeks the men, mainly from Donegal, Tyrone and Derry, were all dead and anonymously buried in a mass grave outside the town of Malvern.

For some time it was thought that the mass grave was due to an outbreak of a dangerous disease such as cholera and this was simply a way of dealing with infection. However, the new evidence paints a different picture. While the two skulls found more recently show signs of violence and a bullet hole the previous skulls unearthed also showed trauma.

via Mass murder now suspected of Irishmen at Duffy’s Cut – SEE VIDEO | Irish News | IrishCentral.

UPDATE: There’s a video of the Documentary:

An Indian finds himself on the Emerald Isle

Very interesting article on the connection between Ireland and the Choctaw Indians, by way of the famine:

White Deer has just spent two days traipsing around the city with a filmmaker from Dublin, working on a documentary about the Choctaw-Irish connection. Among other places, they have visited the Irish hunger memorial garden in lower Manhattan, a quarter-acre grassy hill with the remnants of a famine-era stone cottage imported from Mayo. Etched into the stone base is a reference to the generous donation by “the Children of the Forest, our Red Brethern of the Choctaw nation.”

via An Indian finds himself on the Emerald Isle.