With Shortcovers, Indigo charts different course than Amazon, Barnes & Noble

This week has been a fairly big one for electronic books in Canada. There was Amazon.com’s announcement that we’re finally able to order the Kindle in Canada. And, on November 16, Canadian company Indigo Books & Music, which owns Chapters, began publicizing its own e-book service.

Shortcovers is interesting. Unlike other e-book moves by print-book retailers, Indigo is not selling its own device but instead making books available on smartphones, computers, and Sony’s e-book readers. Both Barnes & Noble and Amazon felt the need to create their own reading devices to help them sell electronic books, and it’ll be interesting to see if Indigo’s approach will have as much or more success than its American counterparts.

What is clear is that the next year or two will be vital in deciding whether there is going to be a viable electronic-book market. The major stumbling block may be that we seem to be on the verge of a format war as Amazon’s, Barnes & Noble’s, and Sony’s e-book stores all offer different copy-protected formats which only work with their own devices. Digital music managed to avoid such a war, despite Sony’s continued attempts to launch its own proprietary format, but home video had to endure the battle of Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD.




Nov 18, 2009 at 4:16pm

I think Indigo might be on the right track by not tying them themselves to a hardware device. I have shortcovers, on my ipod, and recently read my first book on it. It worked great, I didn't realize it was Canadian based so that makes it even better.


Nov 18, 2009 at 9:59pm

I think content is always king and Indigo must agree. Though BN will also be partnering/selling several other ereaders.


Nov 18, 2009 at 10:01pm

Same here. Found them for my iPhone, didn't know they were Canadian. Just saw that they are now making a whole bunch of Canadian indy press press titles available. That's pretty sweet. Nice to see someone who isn't just thinking about selling more Twilight.


Nov 19, 2009 at 6:59am

Once I heard about the Indigo service I thought it was a great Idea, however Indigo has a very small selection of e-books compared to amazon. I read non-fiction, and looking through Indigo's selection I couldn't find any of the books that are on my "to buy" list. Moreover Amazon prices their ebooks cheaper. I'd like to support a Canadian company but If I'm buying e-books it wont be from Indigo/chapters.


Nov 19, 2009 at 9:24am

This is a natural extension of eBook readers already available for handheld devices, of which there are millions in use. It works reasonably well (takes a long time to load) and the prices by and large seem reasonable (about 50% of the actual book). The list of titles will expand quickly and its good to see Canadian titles. This can only be good for Canadian publishing. Good for Indigo.

Jeffery K. Simpson

Nov 19, 2009 at 5:39pm

That's true, however it's the end of the year and they're pushing the Sony eReader and smartphone options with no further word on their own device. I'm not saying it's not possible that they'll announce something after Christmas, but it's very unlikely that they'll have anything out before 2010.

Amazon is, as far as most of their statements have gone, making the Kindle to sell ebooks and it's almost a loss leader for the company to ensure that they're in control of the market when things move that way in the same way that Apple/iTunes is sort of the nexus for digital music right now. That Indigo is making the platform as... not "open" but as inter-compatable, as possible I think is interesting.

I do agree with Jim however. Currently Amazon.com has a much larger selection and better prices. However I would find it interesting to see how the selection diverges based on national lines. Are we going to see more books about hockey from Indigo, for example, given that more books on the subject are published in Canada than the US?

IDATE consulting

Nov 20, 2009 at 1:26am

I do agree with you Jeffery. Nonetheless Indigo also announced the creation of a dedicated spin off dealing with digital books for December 2009.
As for Canada it is still the chicken and egg coundrum. Will sales of digital books lead to the launch of new ereader devices or is it the launch of ereaders that will drive the ebook market?
I work for a French consultancy and I would be pleased to find estimates regarding the size of the Canadian ebook market. Booknet.ca does not issue ebook figures. Can anyone help me?

Brad J. Murray

Nov 20, 2009 at 8:56am

The defining feature amongst these devices is the Kindle's pervasive free wireless access, allowing use of some net services and acquisition of new books from anywhere at any time. The first person that ties this feature to an open content acquisition model (where I can buy from Amazon, Shortbooks, or Lulu at my own discretion and with the same convenience) will have my dollar.