(image courtesy Readymade)
It’s time for another “State of the eBook”! This time there’s some quickie news, and then an examination of numbers. What’s for real, and what’s a smokescreen? More on that in a bit.
-The Kindle app for PC has been updated! Apparently, it adds a few interface improvements. Hopefully, the next step is going to be releasing some new Kindle apps (cough, Android, cough).
-In addition, it looks like Amazon will be offering commissions to affiliates for Kindle books.
-The nook may/may not have outsold the Kindle in the first quarter. The actual results are the subject of some debate, and up for interpretation. Basically, the question is whether the numbers came from actual sales or from manufacturer orders. Since the nook was in thin demand until the first quarter, it’s very likely B&N out-ordered Amazon on eInk screens, but that doesn’t prove either one actually sold more to the public.
-Borders has a 50% discount right now on all Sony Reader accessories! There are a handful of reports that some stores are offering the 50% on actual Sony Readers as well, but that might be a store-by-store basis. The accessories, though, are on sale even online, so you don’t have to leave the house to get it!
-The Kobo Reader is officially shipping in Canada. Lucky Canadians can get it at their local Indigo bookstore. Supposedly it will be hitting Borders soon (maybe that’s why the Sony accessories are on sale) for the low, potentially game-changing price of $149.
Then there’s the question of numbers. Slippery, sneaky numbers. Numbers aren’t normally slippery or sneaky, but the ebook world is filled with half-truths and partial reveals, which makes it very prone to misinformation and rumors. A good example is the B&N sales numbers mentioned above. B&N and Amazon are relatively tight-lipped about exact sales numbers, which means everyone tries to read the tea leaves to determine what it all means. Any scrap of information get ceased upon as gospel, and suddenly component orders for a previously backordered device is being extrapolated into hard sales data. Of course, the flipside is that with the backorder of the relatively new nook, there’s a good shot it very well MIGHT have outsold the Kindle, but eInk screen sales aren’t enough to support that assumption.
Then there’s the apparent controversy surrounding the actual number of books in the iBookstore. O’Reilly pegged it at 46,000, Apple says it’s 60,000, and then Teleread noted O’Reilly’s researcher was a bit unclear on the 46,000 number. Then it becomes a matter of semantics. 60,000 sounds better than 46,000, and it’s not like anyone is sitting and paging through iBooks to determine the exact count. The bigger issue, and one that’s going to take time to really shake out, is whether consumers find what they need. If they do, it doesn’t matter if there’s 60,000 or 600,000.
Of course, everyone still likes those numbers to look good. Ever notice how Barnes and Noble and Kobo have “over one million titles”? And Amazon is rocking about half that, or 500,000? It’s because Kobo and B&N are “fluffing” their numbers with Google Books. Again, it doesn’t really matter, as the bigger issue is getting the book you want, not knowing that the store you’re shopping in has one million titles minus the one you really wanted. But it sounds good.
And are ebook readers really suffering at the hands of the iPad? Well, maybe not as much as you’d think. B&N and Amazon are pushing for retail outlets for their readers, and those aren’t cheap. Best Buy and Target are getting a cut of those sales, so there must be some confidence that margins can support that. And there’s the small point of the nook and the Kindle costing at the minimum $140 less than the lowest end iPad. For someone looking for a straight ebook reader, there’s still a strong market, and there’s no reason to bust out the headstone quite yet.
Finally, there’s the question of piracy. eBook piracy is the boogeyman in the corner that every publisher is muttering about, bitterly complaining it’s the reason for DRM and other restrictive practices. Teleread reported on an analysis Torrent Freaks did regarding pirated ebooks before and after the iPad launch. The good news is that none of Amazon’s Kindle Bestsellers were available on BitTorrent. The bad news is that there was a major uptick in business book piracy, though the numbers are in the very low hundreds. But quick, what sounds more exciting: an increase of 187 to 304 or an increase of 104%?
All technology news short of an official financial statement is very much to be taken with a grain of salt. But it seems the half-truths and interpretations are worse in ebook-land because there’s a great deal of hype and not much concrete information available. If B&N and Amazon want to maintain a marketing advantage, some hard numbers might help. Otherwise, the ebook world is just going to suffer through more confusion, misinformation, and the “ebook readers are dead” meme over, and over, and over again.