(image courtesy engadget)
Samsung has announced their E60 ebook reader, a basic 6 inch eInk device with a touchscreen and wifi…and it will be tied into the Barnes and Noble ecosystem. Honestly, I don’t entirely understand how this is a win for B&N or Samsung. The E60 is stuck living in the shadow of the nook, and Barnes and Noble ends up confusing their brand further.
In my opinion, Samsung would have benefited more from tying in with a store like Kobo Books. Kobo has made it their philosophy that they do not want to tie down to one reader, but be a content provider to all kinds of devices. Partnering with B&N means playing second fiddle to the nook constantly. Talk Barnes and Noble and ebooks, and everyone knows nook first and foremost. While it’s great to get the content boost from a large store, there are other dance partners out there. Plus, B&N says they’ll be opening their DRM up to all Adobe-compatible devices, so eventually that compatibility is not going to be anything special. And the pricing is a bit high for what you get. For $299, you get a touchscreen enabled reader with wifi, so you can take handwritten notes, which is nice. But on the other hand, that’s still higher than the nook, which has the potential for far more interesting functionality through rooting.
Meanwhile, Barnes and Noble needs to decide what they want. Are they going to be a content provider, like Kobo, or a single-store strategy like Amazon? If the majority of their branding is going to surround their hardware (as it has now), then run with that. Amazon has made themselves successful by clearly and carefully building their brand and focusing their energies. B&N isn’t building a clear brand, they’re building a “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” strategy. They’ve got the eReader store, Fictionwise, and their own B&N ebook store, all of which sell “eReader” books. And they can’t seem to unify under one DRM structure, or even bring their pricing in line with the rest of the marketplace.
Look, we saw from the Changewave survey that the iPad has been dominating mindshare. And the nook is barely holding onto a sliver of that. Samsung’s reader may dominate a small portion of the marketplace, but it’s not going to make a major impression, and Barnes and Noble needs to focus their energy. If it is on content over hardware, then open up the DRM to any interested readers and run with it. If it’s hardware, keep working on the nook firmware and focus more energy on the nook 2. Historically, companies have had a very poor track records when trying straddle two different marketing strategies; look at Apple during the clone days and Palm when their OS was licensed, sold, rebought, sold again…
What do you think about the current state of ebook readers on the market? Share your thoughts below!