EClicto, a long awaited Polish e-book platform was officially launched on 10th of December. The company behind it is Kolporter Info SA, already running an online store with a large catalog of paper books.
The platform includes an e-bookstore and a dedicated e-reading device supporting ePub format. It’s a rebranded Netronix’s EB600 model (same as Cool-er or eSlick) with a Linux-based software written from scratch. Copyrighted content is DRM-ed with a proprietary ePub format.
E-reader’s launch price is 899PLN (approximately 312USD or 215EUR). It’s claimed to be the cheapest e-reading device available in Poland and it’s true. International Kindle with custom duty and shipping costs is an expenditure of at least 350USD. The e-reader starting pack includes 100 free books, including bestsellers. For those who haven’t bought the e-reader yet, there are a few free books (among them a Polish edition of my Password Incorrect) available for download to test eClicto Manager – a free PC application to manage and read books on a computer.
Kolporter officials announced at a press conference a day before première, that the platform has already partnered with 40 Polish publishers. There are over 800 titles in the e-bookstore and their number will double in the coming weeks. From international perspective this may look like nothing. In fact, this is the current size of a Polish e-book market. The number of e-books (pdf) offered by Nexto.pl, the biggest Polish e-bookstore, which started two years ago, is 2 600. There are also 2 700 digitized Polish public domain books, available from Wolnelektury.pl and Bookini.pl. That’s it.
The good news is that prices of e-books at eClicto are 50% lower than their paper editions. It reflects the general e-book price level in Poland. Another good news is that Kolporter is planning to launch within a couple of months a bigger 10 inch device with 3G and wi-fi connectivity.
This is really interesting to see how eClicto is developing. It’s a first venture in Poland to combine e-content with an e-reader into one offer. Although there were a few e-reading devices officially distributed in Poland before (iLiad, Cool-er), but they were not associated with any e-bookstore. At that stage it was already possible – some of the stores were offering e-books in mobile friendly format (mainly prc). The low demand for e-books in general was the most probable reason to wait.
First announcements about eClicto were made at the Warsaw International Book Fair in May. The project was planned to start in September. The interesting thing was, that a Polish e-reader was drawing far less public opinion’s attention than Kindle 2 or Kindle DX, which were covered in any possible media. In my opinion it was a lucky coincidence (or a very smart move), that a project was delayed. In October, first International Kindles came to Poland and were largely discussed in our blogosphere, as well as a they received big as usual coverage in media. So when eClicto reappeared, it got a well deserved buzz. Press headlines were saying “Polish answer to Kindle” or “Will eClicto beat Kindle”. Amazon’s e-reader as a successful e-story was a great reference to turn public opinion to eClicto and e-books in general.
Kolporter decided to introduce a new brand. This is resembling Interead’s Cool-er approach. All from scratch. All well thought. Nothing to lose. But on the other side eClicto was first such venture in Poland, so it was obvious to take a leading position. So for Kolporter there were two different business attitudes to choose from: Kindle (leader, closed) or Cool-er (challenger, opened). EClicto went the Kindle way – and in my opinion took the “Polish answer to Kindle” too literally. Proprietary DRM is one thing. EClicto is also claiming that it allows to download thousands of free books from Project Gutenberg. The thing is that there are only a dozen of Polish language books there. Additionally you can’t actually browse PG books from within eClicto e-bookstore. There are no links to free resources of Polish books. All that looks like “I want to give it to you, but I don’t want you to take it”.
I assume that the reason for such an ultra isolation is a policy towards publishers. The more the project is closed the better the chances to bring new partners to the platform. And Polish publishers are very reluctant to e-books. They don’t see business there, they are afraid of piracy, they are afraid that people will stop buying books (and by “books” they mean “paper books”). It’s publishers, which slow down the development of the Polish e-book market.
E-book sellers are ready, and they were motivated to make an extra effort in view of eClicto’s launch. Direct competition started to include e-readers in their offer. The best example is Bezkartek.pl, which a couple of weeks ago started a promotion “an e-reader + 100 free titles” for 989PLN. In November Virtualo.pl started to use Adobe Content Server. E-books are still available in pdf, but ePub will come sooner or later. What’s more Virtualo is now cooperating with Libranova, a Polish distributor of e-reading devices. Cool-er (priced 1299PLN – 445USD) is a part of Virtualo-Libranova joint promotion. Onyx Boox 60, the most advanced e-reader oficially available in Poland (1499PLN – 515USD), is being advertised via Internet right now and can be bought in Ebookpl.com e-bookstore. Nexto is planning to introduce its own e-reader next year. It’s obvious that major players in Polish book market Merlin.pl (Amazon) and Empik.com (Barnes&Noble) have to do something (and are probably already doing it), if they don’t want to miss the e-book train, which is already rolling.
I’m sure all those activities are to a certain extend an outcome of one single presentation at Warsaw International Book Fair.
It’s eClicto to bring ePub to Poland. It’s eClicto to boost energy into e-book market – both marketeers and readers. I hope publishers will soon change their attitude from “I’m just watching” to “I want to be part of it”. Kolporter’s e-book ambitious venture is not perfect, but is a visible road sign on a Polish e-book map. There were times before eClicto, and there are times after eClicto.
It’s a good thing for e-books to have “a Kindle killer” in any country.