Aldi does e-books

The name Aldi has long been synonymous with discount groceries, both in Germany and abroad. However, Aldi‘s activities have long since expanded into other fields. For example, Aldi is the 8th biggest clothing retailer in Germany and is a big player in the field of consumer electronics (Medion was originally an Aldi brand). Aldi offers household goods, sporting equipment, gardening equipment and pretty much anything under the sun as part of their weekly special offers. Aldi has its own mobile phone network, Aldi Talk, they sell package holidays, insurance policies and recently started up their own music and media streaming service. In Germany, pretty much everybody shops at Aldi, at least on occasion.

Today, I was at my local Aldi store for my weekly grocery haul and picked up the flyer/broshure with the weekly offers, while I was at it. As I flipped through the flyer at home, I came across an announcement that made me do a double-take: Aldi‘s music streaming service Aldi life will now also offer e-books. And to start you off, they’ll be offering a Medion tablet for 129 Euros, which includes a 10 Euro store credit for e-books at the Aldi life store and a month of free music streaming.

It’s not an offer that’s of any interest to me, but nonetheless this has the potential to be big, because a lot more people in Germany and the neighbouring countries shop at Aldi than ever enter a bookstore or visit Will the new Aldi life e-book store persuade these people to give e-books a try? I don’t know. Though Aldi‘s weekly specials frequently include both paperbacks and audiobooks. And given how many people shop at Aldi and peruse the weekly flyer, I’m pretty sure the sales numbers for those books are impressive.

The announcement that Aldi will start selling e-books has the German book world all atwitter, as these articles at,, Heise Online and Börsenblatt show. The only English language article about the Aldi announcement I was able to find is this one by Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader. Nate Hoffelder compares Aldi‘s venture into the e-book market to Tesco’s failed attempt in the UK with a similar scheme. Sainsbury’s also recently closed down its e-book business and handed it over to Kobo.

So will Aldi life eventually go the same way? It’s certainly possible, but personally I don’t think so. For starters, Aldi is neither Tesco’s nor Sainsbury’s. And Germany is not the UK. Because in Germany, Amazon is not nearly as dominant as in the UK. Instead the German e-book market is split between the two big players Amazon and tolino, whereby tolino‘s marketshare is slightly ahead of Amazon‘s.

Personally, I suspect that Aldi life will be more of a challenge to tolino than to Amazon and the Kindle. Because Aldi life isn’t going after the early adopters, high volume readers and people who read obscure niche titles in foreign languages, which form a large part of Amazon‘s German customer base. Aldi life is going after the casual readers, the people who only read a handful of books per year, most of them bestsellers and only in German. And these casual readers, if they have an e-reader at all, mostly have a tolino. Will they switch to Aldi life, especially since tolino offers a superior hardware experience (and hardware-wise, tolino readers are excellent – my second e-reader is a tolino shine)? Time will tell.

Of course, the question is: What does all this mean for indies? And I must confess that my first thought upon reading the announcement that Aldi life will be offering e-books in the Aldi flyer was, “Who is their supplier? And how can I get in?”

Turns out I wasn’t the only person asking that question. And so Börsenblatt, a magazine of the German publishers’ and booksellers’ association asked Aldi that exact same question and received the answer that Aldi life is working with various distributors and aggregators in order to offer a broad range of titles, but that they can’t name any specific partners. Do these distributors and aggregators include some that carry indie e-books? I have no idea. Though I strongly suspect that the answer is “no”, since Aldi life allegedly offers “more than one million e-books” (including English language e-books), whereas Amazon offers more than five million. The discrepancy is very likely due to indies.

Besides, even though tolino is embracing indies now and have their own upload portal, for most indies tolino sales are much lower than they should be, based on tolino‘s marketshare. And if Aldi taps into the same demographic or an even more bestseller focussed one, it probably won’t be a very good market for indies. Nonetheless, I will be checking the Aldi life e-book store for my books, when it goes live on October 20. I also think Smashwords or Draft2Digital would do well to see if they can get Aldi life to carry their titles – after all, they both distribute to tolino.

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