State of the eBook: The Return!

Hello and welcome back to State of the eBook! The series had a bit of a summer vacation, but the news is slowly picking back up! So pull yourself away from your new Kindle/nook app/iBooks and check out what’s been going on in the ebook world!

Fuzzy Math

A few bits of creative and flexible number reporting first. The Bookseller claims iBooks is “more popular than Facebook and Twitter”. Yes, they phrased it exactly like that. As one commenter on their post pointed out, iBooks is the default PDF reader on the iPad and iPhone, so that explains a big chunk of the user numbers. There’s also no indication from the article whether the survey counted ALL twitter and Facebook integration, or just the official apps. If they are counting just when the “official” apps are downloaded, versus every app that uses those networks, it’s easy to skew the results. It just doesn’t add up that with the paltry relative number of books in the iBooks store that it would be more popular than Twitter and Facebook!

Then there’s B&N’s letter to their shareholders. Techcrunch has a great breakdown of the numbers, mainly that B&N currently holds roughly 20% of the ebook market, with an eventual goal of 25%. Apparently, B&N also sees the writing on the wall and expects a $3 billion retraction in the physical book market over the next few years. There are a few interesting implications here, starting with what it means for Barnes and Noble. Obviously they’re extremely bullish on digital books, and hopefully knowing there’s a big squeeze hitting the physical book world means they’re planning accordingly. B&N is in the midst of a major battle for control of the company, and they’re trying very hard to prove they can handle the future without another investor coming in to muddle the waters.

Looking beyond B&N, we can extrapolate a few more things from these numbers. For starters, if B&N has 20% of the ebook market, and it’s fairly likely that Amazon has somewhere in the range of 75%, that leaves 5% to everyone else. Marketshare is a tough thing to pin down mid-year; between new nooks and Kindles and Kobo readers, and sales and app updates, my guess is that 5% number slides up and down fairly often. Still, it’s probably safest to say that Kobo is chugging along with a big chunk of that miscellaneous excess, since they’re powering Borders store as well as their own, plus they have a deal with HTC now as well. Then there are the free ebook stores, which may or may not be counted in the marketshare numbers since it’s not a direct revenue stream. Amazing how much can be guesstimated by a simple shareholders letter!

Rumors, rumors everywhere

Sure, the new Kindles finally came out, but there are more ebook readers coming soon too! The Entourage Edge will (supposedly) be getting a little brother called the Pocket Edge. Nate at The Digital Reader did a fantastic job pulling together some screenshots and rumors about the upcoming device. Like the full-size Entourage Edge, the Pocket Edge will be half eInk/half color LCD, running Android. In order to be a decent success, this device NEEDS to be running Android 2.2. I couldn’t find the specific Android version on their website, but from what I recall it was either 1.5 or 1.6. The Edge is already a bit of an odd duck, and in order to stand out against the army of Android tablets running 2.2, they’re going to need to up their game.

Remember the Jetbook Lite I reviewed a few months ago? Ectaco has an updated version coming out, the Jetbook Mini! Same black and white LCD screen, but slightly smaller (and a new, funkier looking shape)! Best of all it will come in at $99, which is a great price for a simple ebook reader. I’ve reached out to Ectaco about a review unit, so stay tuned for more details, and if you’re dying for one right away you can preorder on Ectaco’s site for an early October delivery.

Finally, the baseline hardware for the Kobo Reader has been updated with wifi. This doesn’t officially guarantee there will be an update to the Kobo Reader, but it does open the door for it. Given Kobo’s push into smartphones and syncing ebooks across platforms, I think it’s almost inevitable that the Kobo Reader will pick up wireless capabilities, and hopefully, it will stay at or below its current price! Teleread has a great rundown on the companies that use the Netronix hardware who might use the updated version!

Kobo’s Bill of Rights

Wrapping up, Kobo released the “eReaders Bill of Rights” on Friday. While they may not be the biggest player in ebooks (just scroll up a bit for more on that!), Kobo spends a great deal of time pulling back the curtain on the ebook world. From their candid discussions on how the Agency Model affected their business to their newly released bill of rights, they spend a great deal of time explaining and outlining how the ebook world works, and where they fit within it. It’s refreshing, and it shows they respect their customers enough to speak candidly.

The whole Bill of Rights is an interesting read, with some sly humor mixed in with serious business precepts. I don’t entirely agree with Kobo’s assertion that using Adobe DRM is part of a Bill of Rights, but that’s more because I think any DRM isn’t a positive. It is a reality of the business they are in, though, and they’re putting the best spin they can on a difficult and thorny issue. I do love that they list this as one of the rights:

When DRM is mandated, do it. But if it isn’t required, don’t apply it anyway just because you can’t help yourselves. Publishers usually ask us to put DRM on books and we do. But on some occasional happy days, someone says “Keep my books open. No DRM. Let ‘er rip.” And then, we do. Download that baby and take it wherever you like**.

As it should be!

What would you add to Kobo’s bill of rights? Are you excited for any of the rumored ebook readers? What’s your take on the fuzzy math regarding iBooks, B&N and general ebook marketshare? Sound off below!


About the Author

Carly Z
Carly has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to her first PDA (a Palm M100). She quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. She loves writing about ebooks because they combine her two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?