Some new numbers for Canada (from Ipsos Reid, are any other market research firms doing this kind of work in other countries?!):
"The study also reveals that as eReaders grow in popularity, the brand landscape is showing a runaway brand winner: the Kobo. Twelve months earlier, the Sony eReader, the Kobo, and Amazon’s Kindle were virtually tied for market penetration at 28%, 27% and 25% respectively. The January 2012 wave of the Mobil-ology Study shows the Kobo far out in front with 46% penetration and the Kindle slipping one point to 24%. The big shift comes at the expense of Sony’s eReader, which saw market penetration drop from a category leading penetration in January 2011 to a distant third at 18% in January 2012.
Looking at the brands of eReaders under consideration by those in the market, it appears that more losses are in store for Sony as consideration of this brand has dropped by 31% over the past 12 months. Intention to buy a Sony eReader fell from a high of 45% last year to 31% in January 2011, with Kobo picking up much of the difference. “What is more interesting is that with 53% of respondents intending to buy a Kindle, the Amazon product is more likely than Kobo to be a part of the consideration set of prospective buyers than the Kobo, now at 42%,” adds Barbour. “Though intentions do not necessarily translate into sales, the January 2012 wave of Mobil-ology shows that a battle of the brands may be in the works if Amazon is able to improve conversion.”"
I think the second paragraph reflects that, to people who haven't really investigated e-readers yet, that Kindle is still a very strong brand name and that many of the uninitiated would say (when asked) they want a Kindle as they may not even be aware of any of the other brands. However, Kindle buying intention has been (and remains) the highest in Canada despite them actually dropping in marketshare, so something is getting in the way of Amazon converting that intention into purchases.
I think the first paragraph explains that problem for Amazon is: the pushback from book retailing. It's been successful in the U.S., with B&N eclipsing all of Amazon's competitors to take the uncontested second-place spot. It's happened in Canada, with Kobo rocketing into first place (now nearly double Amazon's marketshare). Amazon must know this, and this news seems to prove it:
In short, Waterstones in the UK (the #2 book retailer after the Kobo-allied WHSmith) was in talks to make the UK the first country outside the U.S. to have the Nook for sale, but that the deal fell through for financial reasons. Instead, Waterstones will be selling Kindles in their stores. Though the deal is non-exclusive and, interestingly, they will also be selling "other formats" through their website.
Chapters/Indigo in Canada having succeeded in rocketing Kobo from nowheresville to an absolutely dominant position in the market (I can think of no other mature e-reader market is the Kindle halfway back of the market leader) must have everyone in the industry paying attention, as there's now seems to be a race to partner with major retailers. I imagine this means that a lot of people want to check out the device in person before making a purchase.
In a separate (and unrelated) press release, Michael Serbinis of Kobo confirmed they saw triple-digit growth in Canada in 2011, and have budgeted for triple-digit growth in Canada again for 2012. That same article suggested they've enjoyed about 50% of new e-reader sales in France since their alliance with FNAC last year, that they're about to launch an aggressive (Kobo-branded) push into Japan on the backs of Rakuten, and that they have dozens of other countries in mind for imminent expansion. Japan's the key one though, with the e-reader market not yet mature there (and, therefore, potentially open to new entrants), the Kindle not having launched there yet, and Rakuten (the eBay of Japan, effectively) in a great position to gain share in their home market.
Interesting times for the big four (Sony being the fourth).