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SNCF, France’s national railway company, launched a subscription e-book service on November 6, 2015. The service represents three of the key trends Ovum has identified for digital media in 2016: The importance of local content; the importance of curation in content services; and, most importantly, the fact that everyone is now a media company.

75% of SNCF’s customers read books on the train, so offering them an e-books service makes sense

A train company may seem like an unlikely digital content provider but when – according to SNCF – 75% of commuters on its service read on the way to work, is there really any reason not to offer an e-books service?

The service offers classic literature and excerpts of books in the news on a free-to-download basis. Subscribers have to pay €9.90 ($10.60) a month for access to the full 100,000 book library. The app is available on iOS or Google Play.

Curation is an important part of the SNCF e-books service: Excerpts from interesting new books are available for free, encouraging users to go on to buy them. The service also has a suggested reading list which changes each month. Excerpts of these books are available for free without registration, providing a frictionless way for potential users to trial the service.

The service also highlights local content, suggesting books on the history, cuisine, and heritage of wherever the user is located so long-distance travelers can read up on the place they’re visiting. Keeping its eye on travelers’ needs, SNCF even gives readers an estimate of how long each book will take to read and provides a selection of short books for commuters – a selection heavily featuring France’s favorite genre, the polar or crime novel.

While the French take reading – and train services – more seriously than many other nations, SNCF’s new offering represents many of the consumer-centric features Ovum has seen across the wider digital media landscape.


Further reading

Digital Economy 2025: Digital Consumer Publishing, ME0002-000612 (November 2015)

Digital Consumer Publishing Forecast: 2015-20, ME0002-000586 (July 2015)

Digital Consumer Publishing: Reaching for 2020, ME0002-000583 (July 2015)


Charlotte Palfrey, Research Analyst, Digital Media

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