SingTel – BT

SingTel joins e-book market with skoob

SingTel has become the latest to attempt turning the publishing world on its head, or to at least spell ‘books’ backwards.

Skoob, its e-book service, was launched yesterday, with six big publishing houses – Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Simon and Schuster and Macmillan – on board. It also carries books by local publishers such as Popular and Marshall Cavendish.

Offered through a free Apple or Android app, as well as through browsers, the service has more than 39,000 titles, the majority of which are international, according to a SingTel spokesman.

On its website, the selection runs the gamut from George Martin’s Game of Thrones series to Asiapac comics. Classics such as The Art of War and works by Shakespeare will be available for free.

In a nod to the peculiarities of the local market, skoob also offers local study guides and educational books. ‘We believe skoob’s range of local study guides and educational books will be well received by school students, and we are looking to include assessment papers soon,’ said Goh Seow Eng, SingTel’s chief of digital home.

SingTel will enter a market which has been thus far dominated by Amazon through the latter’s Kindle e-book reader. A Goldman Sachs report in February said that Amazon accounts for 58 per cent of e-book sales in the United States. This is followed by Barnes & Noble with 27 per cent and Apple with 9 per cent.

Currently, the Kindle device is not shipped directly to Singapore and users here have resorted to gift cards or US credit cards to make e-book purchases on the Amazon online store.

‘The Singapore market has long been overlooked by e-book services from abroad. With the launch of skoob, Singapore readers finally have a service that offers local books and caters specifically to their tastes and needs. It also provides local publishers and writers with a powerful digital platform that allows them to reach a wider audience,’ said Mr Goh.

Unlike Amazon and Barnes & Noble, skoob is not tied to a specific device or platform. Customers have the option of sharing books on up to five devices.

Payment can be made with local credit cards and SingTel customers can opt to have purchases charged to their monthly bills.

While Amazon and Barnes & Noble offer digital subscriptions to magazines and newspapers, skoob does not appear to be headed in that direction, and will be focusing on e-books, according to SingTel’s spokesman.

In some cases, the skoob store offers e-books at a cheaper price relative to its competitors.

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, for example, is listed at S$6.22 but was priced at US$9.99 for both the Kindle version on Amazon and the Nook e-reader version on Barnes & Noble. Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, however, was priced at S$20.05 on skoob, but was cheaper on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, costing US$5.99.

While SingTel did not reveal the number of readers it expects to draw, its spokesman said: ‘We believe e-books will be widely adopted in Singapore as more people carry tablets and smartphones…We know the demand is there, so we expect good take-up of the service.’

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