Bookshop Foyles makes move to e-readers


London bookshop Foyles has joined Waterstones in entering the e-reader market, offering three e-book readers as well as 57,000 e-books on its website.

Foyles now stocks the BeBook Mini and two Sony eReaders in the Touch and Pocket editions, with eBooks available in epub and pdf formats.

In an interview with IT PRO, Foyles digital manager Eoin O'Reilly said that although e-readers had been around for a few years, UK bookshops hadn't got properly involved until Waterstones entered the market a year ago.

He said that Foyles had talks at that time to see how it could go about selling e-readers and e-books, but decided to sit back and see how the market developed.

"Technology moves so quickly. Things change so quickly," O'Reilly said. "We had to get involved at some stage, but it was about waiting until the devices got at a reasonably good standard and not terribly expensive."

"But there's no point in pretending it's not going to happen. It's going to happen," he asserted. "There are going to be more e-books in the market, so you have to get your systems in place so that you can be ready to react as and when things change."

But O'Reilly said that it was impossible to predict what would happen in the market. Some statistics claim that there will a big demand for e-readers while others believe the demand will be small.

O'Reilly said that the BeBook Mini was now the cheapest device on the market, and that Foyles went for it as it was seen as a good entry-level device that he claimed was much lighter and easier to use than the equivalent Sony product.

"It's just a nice device for us to market," he said. "It's not a Sony, not a big company. We are Foyles, we're independent not a big company in that sense. So its good to be able to link with other companies who are as well."

O'Reilly said that the UK market for eReaders was interesting, with the devices having to read lots of different file formats.

"It's like the very early days of the digitisation of music," he said. "Until that settles down on one agreed file then it's going to be quite tricky for the public, and for us to adequately sell things."

He added: "There's also the whole Digital Rights Management side of things. That's not a big deal so much yet, but will become a big deal as people realise they can effectively lose what they've bought."

However, he said that Foyles would always have a focus on books, as it was all the company had ever done and was what it knew how to do.

"We see the e-books as an increase in our range. It means we can offer an awful lot more and give people the choice, which is what we've always been about," he added.