I had the chance to ask a few questions to Michael Dahan, co-founder and Bookeen CEO. For the French version, click here.
Can you introduce yourself and present Bookeen?
M.D: Michael Dahan, CEO and Co-founder of Bookeen.
“Bookeen is a team of 25 people in France, R&D is done in France.”
What would be the word (yes one!) That you could choose to define Bookeen?
You are at the moment at the heart of the ebook news with the new e-reader (Nolim) in partnership with Carrefour, why such a partnership?
M.D: This kind of partnership is intended, it is the business model of Bookeen which does not rely on a big organisation – it is to be an operator for major brands – in order to be able to run the R&D team and be able to offer new products and services.
Do not forget that Carrefour is also a bookseller. Bookeen works with people who are willing to sell their own e-readers.
How can I get this e-reader in England?
M.D: You can’t get it in England for now, – Carrefour is exclusive for France, Spain, Belgium. To be able to propose this e-reader in England, we would have to find a partner to have content in English.
If I am a self-published author is it possible to put my book on Bookeen’s library?
M.D: Yes, you have to go through a third-party platform. Services that connect to the Bookeen library.
ie: Immateriel (Editor’s note – available in English)
This is what I invite authors to do, to publish on different platforms. Note that self-publishing is expanding in Anglo-Saxon countries.
In some interviews you are often compared to Amazon “the giant”, how do you feel about this comparison?
M.D: We do the same job, we do not have the same dimensions, and we are not present in the same countries. We share products and technologies. It’s a competition.
Some indicators show that they pay attention to all their competitors. Amazon quality is to have been able to see immediately the potentiality of the bookstore function (as a platform) in all the business. They have taken off the sales of digital books. The publishers said that people would never read digital and Amazon has seen the market. They have the culture of e-commerce, and that remains a model of execution.
As for the defects, one could note a certain lack of originality, they are effective and they go in a fairly mathematical way. For Bookeen, it leaves opportunities and that’s how Bookeen built the last e-reader, having the idea of doing different things.
“The main difference is that we do not have the same size and capabilities. We have an obligation, to find the trick and create our own way to exist. “
Bookeen is not only an e-reader manufacturer, but it is also a seller of digital books. Here, there is a real know-how and if you are not listening to users and you do not have quality content, the system does not work.
This is an activity that contains many parameters.
On the official brand website, we speak of “Made In France” and French Tech. Is this image of French manufacture one of the core values at Bookeen?
M.D: It is not a core value in the way that it is more our professionalism and “track record” that makes Bookeen stand out.
On the French Tech side, it is a growing element right now in France, it is true that lately there has been a development of beautiful companies, which creates a dynamic on the “technological” aspect. The French Tech is something for French people, to show them dynamics and to counter the contradictory speeches. ie: that it does not work, that people do not read…
People do not know the real numbers, do not know how and by whom the ebook is bought, the only thing they have is an annual revenue. We are told that the market is flat while our online bookstore is growing.
When we talk with the American publishers they tell us that digital is finished, that paper has won while self-publishing is booming in Anglo-Saxon countries. Which in a sense shakes the current organisation. The market is constantly moving. Bookeen is a rare actor who has managed to keep up, the market is hard to read and the behaviours are differents country by country. Piracy is present and subscriptions on the platforms are a way to turn them down.
Bookeen still has room to grow and is growing.
What is the right price of an ebook?
M.D: I do not have an absolute answer. The price determines the speed of adoption. We have to find the right balance to make the business model viable. The average price is between 5 and 7 euros. For me, the good price would be 5 euros.
Bookeen does not have a subscription system, but we are thinking about it.
On France Info (in the pitch start up on Bookeen) it is said that the number of the digital book increases in France, this figure includes the e-reader, the ebook; or both?
M.D: On the e-reader, the same amount is sold, it is a product that people keep longer. On the Nolim e-reader, the product should be kept even longer because it is almost indestructible.
People give us e-reader in repair and there is a kind of attachment to the object that corresponds to that same attachment to the book. Usage times are 3-4 years, and new users are buying e-reader each year.
The book market (ebook) is growing. On the Bookeen store we made + 80% for 2015-2016, and for this year we are at + 90% for now.
Bookeen has a strong focus on sales. Our goal is to have a tool that is useful for the user. We are very focused on commercial efficiency.
How do people “buy” digital books in France?
M.D: On all our stores + 70% of sales are done directly from the e-reader. The very high usage rate on the e-reader is an important vector of sales.
30% of the readings are made in the evening in bed, that is why Bookeen e-reader has light.
On average the user buys one book per month. The best months of sales are the months before the holidays. This is also found on the paperback/hardback market. Some publishers outperform digital, Bragelonne is in 3rd position.
What kind of ebook sells best at Bookeen?
M.D: It depends on the stores and the audience. But it could be romance.
The little extra:
M.D: Bookeen organises bookeen cafes where readers can meet the authors. Bookeen is in the process of discovering titles and developing a social aspect.
What are the plans for the future?
- New products, integration of LCP (Editor’s note: Here to find out more)
- Changing the software in the e-readers, to make a software with a lot more functions store, easier to access and at all times as well as extending this software on mobile support.
- Also look at the library market.
Michael Dahan’s advice for Self-published authors: be sure of the technical quality in the document – text, cover, table of contents.