It has come to our attention that South Africa’s largest online retail store – Kalahari.net has introduced it’s own custom ebook Reader for Windows and Mac, and an eBook store to go with it and a collection of more than 180 000 titles already available on the site.. As per the Bandwidth Blog who managed to test run the software on Mac:

I tried out the Mac version, and the application was built on Adobe AIR (which explains the cross platform ability). At present users download and authenticate using Adobe authentication. While I was unable to purchase additional books yet, we have to wait until final launch to see pricing that will be made available. Currently any Adobe Digital Editions book will load in the new Kalahari Reader, with the addition of being able to purchase books directly from Kalahari.net.

One portion I would like to try out is the borrow function…

The reader takes eBooks in PDF or ePub formats.

Memeburn picked up on it with details about how to go about getting the software and purchasing e-books:

1) Users need to download the kalahari.net reader for either Mac or PC…

2) There are two different ways to browse for the eBooks that you want to purchase. When visiting kalahari.net, click on the eBooks tab to gain access to the complete library of available eBooks. Alternatively, you can browse the regular Kalahari.net bookstore and look out for the product description which reads “also available as an eBook.” …

3) Once payment has been successfully completed, users will need to navigate to the “Library Box” section, from where they can begin to download eBooks.

4) Once you have downloaded the eBook, then you can save it to the device which you will be reading it on. According to kalahari.net, “if you connect an eReading device to your computer, the kalahari.net Reader will detect that it’s connected, and will show the documents on that device in a new Bookshelf”.

Kalahari.netNow Kalahari fairly recently extended it’s reach into the Kenyan market via Kalahari.co.ke but offering a smaller subset of products. It appears, however that the eBook service has not been extended to the Kenyan market. Kalahari accepts payment via MPESA in Kenya. It could be an interesting thing to bring the eBook service to this market and this could really be the big break Kenya is looking for in e-commerce.

One often overlooked challenge to e-commerce in the Kenyan market is that of the logistics of delivering products to customers. The country’s postal system so far and as far as we can see would not support home delivery given that there is scarcely any or home addressing/naming system to the house level, so to speak. The few players in this space such as Mapambo.com and Katchyclothing.com are finding ways around this problem but no doubt the delivery logistics problem is not really their core business. They would rather focus on maintaining inventories and pushing their product. The additional logistics problem of locating the customer is added cost, time and effort.

eBooks on the other hand are a pretty sexy product for e-commerce – the product can be evaluated by the customer without physical contact – descriptions, ratings and reviews cut it – and for the customer, finding information about a book is as easy as Googling it – Amazon, book publishers and others have done a great job of making the information readily available from a simple search, plus in most cases, the customer typically knows what title they are looking for, or at least what subject matter they are interested in.

Secondly, the product is delivered instantly, easily and at a phenomenally lower price than mailing a package. The customer buys the e-book and they simply get access to it on their reader software.

Therefore, e-books could be a big thing for the Kenyan and even other African markets, the key components are in place – payment via mobile money and a product that can be pushed pretty easily online. It also helps that the internet penetration rate is growing well.

Kalahari has a really good product in it’s hands and a first mover advantage. It would be interesting to see new startups in this space especially in Kenya – anyone reading this, perhaps…?

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