State of the eBook: Good News/Bad News

(image found via The Digital Reader)

It’s that time again! There’s a whole slew of exciting and disappointing news in the ebook world, so let’s jump right in and take a look!

The exciting news:

-Asus is rumored to be releasing the EEE Note reader soon, for a very reasonable $200. The biggest thing about the EEE Note isn’t the ebook reading, ┬ábut that it will include a Wacom digitizer for note-taking. Ebooks and digital textbooks have had an uphill battle in academics in large part due to the difficulty in taking notes while reading. No guarantees the EEE Note has cracked this, but the price is certainly right. And Asus was very influential in creating the netbook market, we will see if lightning will strike twice!

-B&N is on a roll in the ebook market! First, they’re up to a 25% marketshare, which is huge if you consider that B&N entered the ebook market in November of 2009 with the Nook! From 0% to 25% in 16 months is really impressive, especially when you consider the corpse of Borders’ ebook strategy rotting in the corner…Plus, B&N has committed to releasing a NOOK for Android tablets, complete with all the tablet-y eye candy. Now Honeycomb can have 17 apps!

Teleread has picked up an interesting theory from a former Wired editor about Kindle pricing. It essentially revisits the idea that floated around a while ago that Amazon might eventually give away the Kindle to Prime members, or with a set number of book purchases per year. I don’t know that Amazon would push the price to zero, but I do wonder if Amazon would heavily discount the Kindle for Prime members, especially if conditions developing ebooks for iOS stay as rocky as the rumors indicate. And while B&N doesn’t have the deep pockets that Amazon does, they DO have their paid membership program, which they might be able to pair with the NOOK in a similar fashion.

-And speaking of Kindles, in case Target, Best Buy, Staples and weren’t enough places for you, AT&T will now be stocking Kindles in their retail stores too! This is exciting news all by itself, but it makes me wonder why Amazon and AT&T are getting that much cozier…maybe Amazon finally has plans to do something with their rumored Android app store, and/or an AT&T Wireless affiliated Kindle tablet?

The disappointing news:

-Over at Quora, a former Borders exec has done a great job at a post-mortem on Borders, and while it’s quite informative it is also really sad. Basically, he lays out that Borders simply wasn’t nimble as an organization, from to shipping and fulfillment. While it’s not mentioned in the post, I think the same issues played out in Borders’ eBook strategy as well. Rather than form a cohesive plan, they went with a prepacked store from someone else, and then couldn’t even settle on a clear branding strategy for their ebook readers. It’s disappointing news for Borders, but should be more good news for B&N, since all the reasons Borders failed are polar opposites to how B&N has handled themselves. (found via Teleread)

-HarperCollins is strangling the nascent life out of library ebook programs, but on the upside there’s a movement to fight back. eBookNewser is reporting there’s a website, aptly named, that’s asking everyone to stop buying from HC until they change their library policy. On the one hand, I think it’s great to see a response this quickly, but I’m concerned that it may not be enough. A quick scan of HC’s authors includes Janet Evanovich, Wally Lamb, Dennis Lehane and Neil Gaiman. All popular and/or prolific authors, plus the list goes on from there…aside from a few angry bloggers and ebook fans, is anyone really going to hesitate before buying the next Janet Evanovich book? Sadly, probably not…

-I saved the worst news for last. Random House has been assimilated into the agency model the other 5 major publishers adopted at Apple’s behest last year. This is bad news in and of itself, but my fear is that this isn’t just Random House joining their colleagues. There have been (unconfirmed) rumors that Apple is not budging on the in-app purchase system, meaning that Amazon, B&N and Kobo are already planning their exits from iOS. Random House is a business, and they’re pragmatic enough to know that if Amazon and everyone else leaves the App Store, then RH loses their exposure to Apple’s customers…unless they agree to the Agency Model and join the last bookstore standing iBooks. I could be finding conspiracies where there aren’t any, especially since Random House never turned down the Agency Model forever, but the timing is a bit fishy.

That’s the ebook news this week, the good and the bad. On the whole, the news is generally good, but Random House joining the Agency model is disappointing at best. We’ll have to wait and see…in the meantime, ready any good ebooks lately?

Categories: eBooks

Tags: , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. The challenges for libraries in the digital era are significant enough. They don’t need grief from H-C. None of the authors you mention are people I read and they don’t mean anything to me, but I will definitely think twice about any H-C purchases until this issue is resolved.

    I’m hoping you ARE seeing conspiracies where none exist, because if the Random House move is indication of their acknowledgement that iBooks will be it – then I will be very disappointed. I enjoy reading on the iPad, partly because of the flexibility of choosing which store I want to support on a case-by-case basis. If that ability is going away (due to Apple’s enforcement of it’s in-app purchase/subscription policies) then I will definitely be re-evaluating my hardware/software purchase decisions very carefully in the near future. Not a good thing for end-users at all!

  2. RT @GearDiarySite: State of the eBook: Good News/Bad News

  3. State of the eBook: Good News/Bad News #gadgets

  4. RT @geardiarysite: State of the eBook: Good News/Bad News

  5. I thought Kindle already was affiliated with AT&T–doesn’t the 3G version now use AT&T (IIRC, the original Kindle was with Sprint, but when Amazon introduced the international version they switched to GSM with AT&T in the US).

    • @SamP, I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. Yes, the Kindle has been affiliated with AT&T for a while, but this is the first time AT&T is going to be selling Kindles in-store.