Aldi gets into ebooks: Will we see local supermarkets do the same?

Aldi opens the book on its profitability – and how much tax it pays in Australia

Picking up unusual items at Aldi is normal for most people who shop at the German discount retailer, but Aldi shoppers in Germany will soon be adding another unexpected item to their shopping trolleys.

Aldi’s German division has begun selling ebooks through an online marketplace called Aldi Life eBooks, reports The Digital Reader.

German customers will have access to one million titles through the marketplace, which can be read through a new Android mobile application. A statement on the company’s website reveals users can also read the titles on any PC or Mac.

This announcement comes off the back of Aldi’s foray into music streaming, powered by early 2000s music streaming service Napster.

The retailer carries a long line of e-readers and tablets sold in store, including in Australia, which are often tied into the brand’s bi-weekly deep discount sales.

Read more: Why Bunnings is paying close attention to Aldi and its weekly deals

Retail expert and associate professor at QUT Business School Dr Gary Mortimer told SmartCompany the move is a logical progression for the retailer and one that would also work in Australia.

“We often see business adopt a digital channel as well to complement their physical business, as it allows a broader reach to new targets and new customers,” Mortimer says.

“Aldi has several hundred stores in Australia, and with a digital platform it doesn’t need to carry inventory and can just send to straight to phones or tablets. This may let them capture customers who are living in cities that don’t have Aldi stores yet.”

However, Australian Aldi lovers who want to get on board with the company’s ebook offering will have to wait, as an Aldi spokesperson told SmartCompany the retailer has “no plans for eBooks in Australia at this stage”.

Ebooks could also be an option for other Australian grocery retailers, with Mortimer saying it would be an easy progression for supermarket giant Coles.

“Coles runs a digital radio site that channels music into their stores, and people can already pick up on that from their phones or digital radios,” Mortimer says.

“There is nothing there to say that they couldn’t offer ebooks through this service as well, it would be a normal progression. It could work with the Coles app to allow customers to download music, movies, or books.”

Australian discount department stores have ventured into ebooks before, with Big W launching an ebook service in late 2013. At the time, the company said it would have “a constantly changing selection of ebooks for as little as 99c, with several hundred titles available free of charge”.

However, in June 2015, less than two years later, Big W’s ebook offering was closed. The website notifies customers ebooks were no longer available to be purchased, and previously purchased ebook titles are no longer be available.

Global online marketplace Amazon continues to dominate the ebook market, with over 3.4 million books on the service with one book reportedly being added every five minutes. Locally, the launch of the Australian Kindle store in 2013 worried booksellers and publishers, who were concerned it would affect the sale of paper books.

However, Mortimer doesn’t believe Amazon’s dominance would put off other retailers from launching their own service, saying “competition is always a good thing”.

“We always see where there’s one major player, other players will aim to challenge the market leader, either by going to a low price model, or potentially package deals,” Mortimer says.

“Coles or Aldi could package ebooks with links to loyalty cards or discounts at store level, which Amazon can’t offer.”


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