Buying eBooks in South Africa

Posted on June 6, 2011

There are a number of different eBook stores you can make use of in South Africa and abroad. Here we look at some of the features and pricing of these stores.

I list Angry Robot first as they are DRM free, and then the rest of the SA based bookstores. Amazon can never be excluded as so many have Kindles (awesome reader) and their reach is so wide (Kindle software works on so many devices).

  • Angry Robot (UK Based) – Good source of Sci Fi books. The only one of the stores listed that don’t DRM your books (big big plus). You can read them on any of your devices (use Calibre to convert them if you need another format).  Support them.
  • Kalahari.net – Wide range of books, including local South African titles. Prices not always great, do a match with Amazon first before buying. Mostly in ePub Adobe Editions (DRM) format. They have their own “Beta software” reader which you are pushed into using. It’s OK but nothing special and not close to the Kindle.
  • Amazon.com (USA Based) – Wide range of books, not too many South African books. We are relegated to buying from the “Africa” region store which prices books $2 about the USA price and restricts us from buying many of the latest titles. Titles come in Kindle format, with DRM. Many devices support kindle software, including iPad/phone/touch, Android devices, Blackberries etc.
  • Exclusives online – Mixed selection of ebooks. Also uses Adobe DRM, though you use the standard Adobe client rather than a customised version (as per Kalahari). Seems slightly cheaper than Kalahari. See examples below.
  • Little White Bakkie – A site focussed on African ebooks. Again it uses Adobe DRM through digital editions and like Exclusives you use the standard Adobe client. Our test book , The Girl who kicked the hornet’s nest, was not available and books seemed to generally sell for between R120 and R200 which is a little pricey for ebooks, though on par with Kalahari.
  • eBookDiva – A site focused on Romance fiction. Yes, they have Mills & Boon, as well as all sorts of other romance novels. Prices range from R210 for a set of 3 Mills & Boon to much cheaper less known authors. They have 1615 titles under R45 and 165 under R20. If this is your thing check them out. It also seems you can write your own books and get them published. Haven’t checked this out in any detail.  As with most of the other South African sites their books are in the Adobe (DRM) ePub format.

For the first test I selected Stieg Larsson’s book “The Girl who kicked the hornet’s nest”, with the following results :

  • Exclusives R70
  • Amazon R72 ($10.46 at R6.80/$)
  • Kalahari R76.46
  • Little White Bakkie – Not listed
  • Angry Robot – Not listed

For the second comparison I used “To the Point” by Herschelle Gibbs and Steve Smith. The results are interesting.

  • Amazon R112 ($16.39 at rate of R6.80/$)
  • Exclusives R130 with choice of PDF or ePub
  • Little White Bakkie R180 as ePub
  • Kalahari.net R180.95 as PDF
  • Angry Robot – Not listed

The third books is the brilliant local novel Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

  • Angry Robot R49.39 as ePub (No DRM) (£4.49 at rate of R11/£)
  • Kalahari.net R108.75 as PDF
  • Amazon.com – Not listed as ebook – R69.36 as paperback ($10.20 at R6.80/$)
  • Little White Bakkie – Not Listed
  • Exclusives – Not listed

It would then seem Amazon is pretty competitive, being cheapest or close to the cheapest price most of the time, Exclusives being cheaper than the SA competitors and the others being a fair way back.

The book selection is not the same across all of the stores. Killing Kebble by Mandy Wiener was only available at Kalahari.net and Lauren Beukes’  Moxyland and Zoo City were only Kalahari (of the local stores) and at Angry Robot,  and most recently listed on Amazon but so far only as paperback.

Shop around and take your poison.

Where else do you buy your ebooks? What are your opinions on the South African eStores.  Let me know in the comments and I will add the stores and comments to the list above.

Books purchased from the above stores in Adobe Editions (DRM) format by default won’t work with the Kindle. There are ways to allow you to read your purchased books on your kindle. See previous post here.

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Categories: Fun things to do, Online commerce


34 Responses

  1. Sam Rich:

    I heard about a local platform that was selling ebooks, but now I can’t find it. I thought your list above might help me, but the links to kalahari, mylittlebakkie, and ebookdiva are not working. Do you know what’s happened to these sites? Can you let me know about more up to date links or sites? Thanks!

    29.10.2015 20:22 Reply

    • Justin:

      Sadly all these smaller platforms seem to have struggled to compete with Amazon and the large players in the market so seem to have all but disappeared. I currently am tending towards Amazon, Angry Robot and paper books (from Takealot).

      07.01.2016 08:19 Reply

  2. Heather:

    Hi,
    You can try http://www.NoviceBooks.co.za, it is focused on South African content and there are lots of free eBooks available in PDF, MOBI for Kindle, EPUB and AZW3 which is the new Kindle format, so you can use it on almost any device including Kindle. No DRM so no worry of having issues there. It is a very new site but it is growing daily with new products all the time. Hope you enjoy.

    Heather

    02.11.2013 16:18 Reply

  3. Malie:

    I am downloading my ebooks from http://www.freebookspot.es – an excellent website –
    100% free ebooks (also drm free) and in many formats (mobi, epub, pdf, txt and more)
    Before you download a book from Amazon or Kalahari – first check this website – the book your
    are looking for will probably be there – free

    11.06.2012 13:55 Reply

    • Justin:

      Hi Malie

      Thanks for providing the info to the readers. There are a lot of free books out there of varying quality.

      With the prices of ebooks these days normally fairly reasonable on Amazon and some of the other sites I would highly recommend that readers support their favorite authors and buy their books from one of the online retailers. Of course DRM free is first prize so you can read on all your devices.

      Justin

      11.06.2012 15:33 Reply

    • Willie:

      I have downloaded from this site to the kalahari reader app on my lapttop and then on to my Gobii reader.Although the books are now available on my Gobii reader , the books on my laptop kalahari app becomes unavailable after a few days and the read button changes to ‘repair’ ,Can anyone help on how to prevet this?

      22.12.2012 10:17 Reply

      • Justin:

        Sorry, stopped using the Kalahari reader ages ago due to poor service. Is your book in PDF or .mobi format? Try use Calibre with the DRM plugins to see if you can strip the DRM off then you can read on any device in any format you like. calibre rocks.

        29.12.2012 13:16 Reply

  4. Brian Ross:

    Just discovered j-j.co.za. Published two e-books but don’t know where to offer to SAfricans. Now live abroad, WA. http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Vrystaat

    11.04.2012 08:20 Reply

    • Pieter van Vuuren:

      Hi Brian,
      If you are not sorted, contact me via email, I have a solution.

      26.09.2012 21:59 Reply

    • Heather:

      Our website will list all your eBooks for free and supply to the South African eReader market. Contact us if you still want to list your eBooks.

      21.12.2013 10:48 Reply

  5. Elaine:

    Could someone out there please tell me in which formats I must buy e-books for a brand new kindle 4? It is all so confusing – I will find a book that looks really good online and am not sure whether it will work on the e-reader that I have.

    16.03.2012 08:18 Reply

    • Justin:

      Hi Elaine

      Any eBooks that are not DRM protected will either work directly or can be converted to use on the Kindle with Calibre.

      Stores like Kalahari most sell their books in Adobe DRM protected PDF or MOBI format. Don’t buy these, they won’t work.

      I mostly buy my books from Amazon, generally they are a whole lot cheaper than the South African stores. Angry Robot books is great for scifi or fantasy books too.

      Justin

      16.03.2012 23:44 Reply

  6. Annelize:

    Hi,

    No luck. Nook confirmed it is not compatible…

    Seems like a bought the wrong thing again!!

    Regards
    A

    09.12.2011 12:53 Reply

    • Justin:

      Annelize, Dont give up just yet.

      There is a way to get the Nook Colour to “dual boot” from a SD card. Basically, you load a version of android onto the SD card, and then when the SD card is plugged in you can choose whether to run the Nook as normal or as an Android device. When running as an Android device you can access the Android store which means you should be able to use the normal Zineo android application as well as all other normal Android applications. It isn’t too complicated to do this.

      Check out the instructions here : http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/latest-gadgets/content/convert-your-nook-color-full-android-tablet-without-voiding-warranty

      Let me know how it goes.

      Justin

      10.12.2011 17:35 Reply

  7. Annelize:

    Hi,

    Sorry for the late answer.

    I have heard from Zinio, they are not compatible with other Kindles but I do see they have the Kindle fire up and running.

    I have sold my Kindle and bought myself a nook color, but now it seems I can’t download on that as well. If I can download via itunes I will be able to download on the nook – but the question is how??!!
    No where they state how you can do that.

    Kind regards
    Annelize

    08.12.2011 16:12 Reply

    • Justin:

      Hi Annelize,
      Since the Fire is an android tablet and Zineo is available for android it was easy for them to make it available. Is your Nook the Android version? Maybe there could be a way to get it to run then. Zineo downloads the magazines directly to the device, not via iTunes or any other apps from what I can see.
      J

      08.12.2011 22:12 Reply

  8. bookfan:

    Hi Justin, im going through an african writers phase,do you know where i could get a lot of african ebooks?ive looked on ibooks and they dont have that much

    06.12.2011 12:47 Reply

    • Justin:

      Hi Phumlani

      I find more on Kalahari.net and on Amazon. Will take a look for other sources and let you know.

      Justin

      06.12.2011 12:58 Reply

  9. sensual_sloth:

    Sorry to bust in on your blog Justin (which I must add, is very helpful) … I would just like to know if Annelize ever heard back from Zinio? I can’t get any info off their site and I see they’re available on Kindle Fire … I’m starting to think they won’t be making issues available for other kindles?

    30.11.2011 12:06 Reply

    • Justin:

      Hi SS
      No sorry, I haven’t heard anything back. I have played briefly with Zinio on the iPad and they seem to scan each page of the magazine as an image unlike Kindle which treats books mostly as text. It seems unlikely at this stage they will implement a new format which could be seen as inferior (no colour) while costing almost as much as the real magazine (especially at current exchange rates).

      Hopefully the fire gets a worldwide release sometime soon.

      Regards
      Justin

      30.11.2011 23:28 Reply

  10. klair:

    hello, my name is klair. i live in JHB. was wondering if you know of a store i could buy an ebook or kindle from? im a little bit nervey about buying online? its a present for my mom and would it be possible to tell me of any places. Thanks sooooo much

    13.10.2011 11:16 Reply

    • Justin:

      Hi Klair
      I will take a look around again see if anyone has them available at reasonable prices.

      Don’t worry about buying online from Amazon. I have bought two for myself and had a couple of friends buy their Kindles directly from amazon online, the customer service was brilliant, it arrives quickly (in about a week) with no hassles already set up to work with the amazon account you bought it from. Just brilliant.

      Justin

      13.10.2011 18:13 Reply

  11. Annelize:

    Hi Justin,
    Thanks, I emailed Zinio and they told me that they are working on the kindle. In the meanwhile I will have to be for the PC or the hard copy.
    Enjoy your day.
    I will keep my eye on this post to see if you find anything.
    Annelize

    16.09.2011 11:18 Reply

  12. Annelize:

    Hi, sorry to bother again – is it able to change an ipad document to a kindle, I have calibre on my computer and translated a lot of books yesterday. Great app they have.
    Thanks
    Annelize

    15.09.2011 10:50 Reply

  13. Annelize:

    Hi Justin.

    Thanks for the replay – you don’t perhaps know if I can translate books from Zinio to Kindle, I can buy all the magazines there but I had to download som sort of acrobat as well as zinio reader 4?

    Regards
    Annelize

    15.09.2011 10:30 Reply

    • Justin:

      Hi Annelize
      I hadn’t heard of Zinio before tonight, did some quick research on it and it doesn’t look like it can easily be converted to work on Kindle. Unfortunately the same goes for books purchased through Apple’s bookstore (I am assuming that is the format you are referring to when you say ipad documents?) I will keep an eye out and let you know if I find anything further.
      Regards
      Justin

      15.09.2011 20:29 Reply

  14. Annelize:

    Hi Justin, I would just like to know I bought an amazon kindle is there anywhere on the web where I can download or buy south african magazines to read on the kindle. you are my last hope. thanks a million.
    Annelize

    14.09.2011 14:08 Reply

    • Justin:

      Hi Annelize
      I haven’t looked for any, will take a look around let you know.
      Justin

      14.09.2011 14:26 Reply

      • Justin:

        Hi Annelize
        Calibre provides a facility to take publicly available content and translate it into “magazines” for reading on the Kindle. It only lists the Mail and Guardian as being a preformatted option for this creation. You can add others if you like but it will not be nicely formatted and it isn’t a substitute for the real magazines

        Noseweek magazine has a digital edition which when subscribed to has versions for iphone/ipad and a PDF version which would work fine on the Kindle.

        I don’t know of any other South African magazines which are available for reading on the Kindle.

        regards
        Justin

        15.09.2011 00:09 Reply

  15. Lorisa Ford:

    I see that subsequently kalahari.com has become alot more competitive in this space, and they have also launched thier own ereader called Gobii. I like to support proudly South African retailers & products, as long as I’m not getting ripped off.

    22.08.2011 11:37 Reply

    • Justin:

      Thanks Lorisa I will check it out and post some updates.

      22.08.2011 12:45 Reply

    • Justin:

      Hi Lorisa
      I would be interested to know which titles you are looking at that look more reasonable. The last book I bought on Amazon was George RR Martin’s A dance with Dragons. This is listed on Kalahari as R199 for the hardcover, R209 for the ebook. On Amazon.com the item is $18.93 at an exchange rate of about R7.20 works out at R136. While I may be ok with the R199 for the hardover, R209 is just too much when I can get off Amazon quicker and easier and cheaper.
      Regards
      Justin

      22.08.2011 18:15 Reply

      • Justin:

        Hi Lorisa
        Tonight I checked Kalahari again and see they have some specials, between 20% and 35% off certain ebooks. This brings down A dance with Dragons to R156.96, still R20 more than Amazon but a much better price. I guess if one waits until specials are on then you can buy local, so keep that “wish list” handy, buy when cheap and always have a library waiting to be read, then you can support local. Seems a lot of effort if one can get what you want, when you want, for cheaper from Amazon. Still waiting to see how the local sellers counter this.
        Justin

        27.08.2011 23:22 Reply

  16. Which Kindle to buy as a South African | j-j.co.za:

    […] Which Kindle to buy as a South African Justin Posted on June 6, 2011 tweetmeme_url = 'http://j-j.co.za/2011/06/which-kindle-to-buy-as-a-south-african/';tweetmeme_source = 'jjza';I have posted a few times in the last little while around my challenges in buying ebooks from Kalahari, then on converting ebooks for use on the Kindle, and more generally on buying ebooks in South Africa. […]

    30.06.2011 17:26 Reply

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