Thursday, July 8, 2010

E-books, E-books, Everywhere

E-books are everywhere this week.

Borders opened their first eBook Store yesterday with a flourish. They not only offer more than one million titles but also discounted their stock of Sony E-Readers, provided $20 gift cards with the purchase of a Kobo E-Reader, and accepted (and continue to accept) pre-orders for the upcoming low-priced Aluratek Libre eBook Reader Pro (on sale 7/20). In honor of the new online store and e-book application, store locations also handed out free coffee with the presentation of your downloaded Borders app.

It's incentive-tastic.

The Borders eBook Store hook--in addition to all the free goodies and discounts--is the "any device" angle. According to the online store:

With Borders eBooks, you're not tied to reading on a particular device. Our eBook store offers more than one million titles (including lots of free ones!) that you can read on your computer, iPad, and many popular smartphones, as well as on eReaders — devices dedicated to eBook reading.


Borders offers several free eReader apps so you can browse, buy, and read Borders eBooks on multiple devices.

Our desktop app works with both Macs and PCs. We also have free apps for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch as well as the BlackBerry and Android devices. Each mobile app is specifically designed to work with the unique features of the device on which it is used.
It's surprising to me that it took Borders quite so long to hop on the e-book bandwagon. Barnes and Noble came out with the Nook, and thus launching an e-book store, in late October 2009. Amazon's Kindle and the Sony E-Reader were, of course, already established at that point, but one would think that B&N's swan dive into the e-book biz would've made Borders kick it into high gear, especially with the hits their stores have been taking lately (they closed 200 locations in January, if you recall).

But now that Borders finally has caught up, it'll be interesting to see what happens in the e-book rat race. With two of the major chain stores on board, it's only a matter of time before smaller, indies and specialty stores start creeping into the lead.
The Idea Logical company projects that these specialty stores are truly the future of e-books, not the superstores B&N and Borders have launched. Mike Shatzkin, a blogger for The Idea Logical, wrote an interesting piece on the subject earlier this week:


It has been a long-established “fact” (although I question if it is still true, as we’ll explain later) that the larger is the selection of books available in a single location, the more powerful is the magnet to attract customers. My father found this out when he was in charge of the Brentano’s chain in the 1960s. Their Short Hills, New Jersey store was the worse-performing store in the chain until they doubled its title selection. And then, like magic, it became the best-performing store in the chain.


So to that point — one could say to this point — the largest possible selection in one place has been as important to the success of an ebook retailer (obviously: online) as it was historically to a print book retailer with a physical store.


But there’s another thread of bookselling history on- and offline that I believe will soon become the dominant paradigm for ebook retailing. And, of course (just so you are reminded what blog you’re reading), it fits into the concept of “verticality”.

Publishers have known for a long time that good deals can be made and large sales can be registered through what we call “specialty retailers”. (The label for these sales in a publishing house, and others such as sales to catalogers or premium sales, is “Special Sales.”) The store that sells the tools and materials to refinish your floors can sell you a book to explain how to do it. The store that sells computers and paper and ink can also effectively sell resume or how-to computer books. The garden supply store can sell books on how to make your roses bloom.

[...] [T]he guess from here is that this is about to change and that the change we’ll see in the next few years will obliterate the notion that “all subjects in one place” is a significant marketing advantage, online or in a store. Many book sales, and particularly ebook sales, will move to “contextual” resellers. Your accountant’s web site will sell you the book(s) that help you understand a new tax law or how to ready your business for sale. Your favorite sports web site will sell you the new biography of Alex Rodriguez. And your favorite “Literary Review” newsletter and website will take care of your needs to acquire fiction directly and without your having to shop the vaster stacks of an online superstore.

That is: curated ebook offerings (a click away from the ability to buy lots more content beyond the curated selection) will be featured on every web site with any significant traffic. Delivering purchaseable content — books right now, but ulimately magazines, shorter articles, and relevant audio- and video-content as well — will become a standard expectation of any site (or web community) that aspires to a true mutual embrace with its site visitors. “What I’ve read lately and liked, and why” is a legitimate offering to anticipate from every blogger or commentator with a following.

Read the full article HERE

Shatzkin makes some very compelling arguments here, and his knowledge of publishing history is pretty impressive, I must say. It's certainly a possibility that his prediction turn into a reality.

As always, only time will tell.

In other e-book news...

Amazon was just granted a dual-screen e-reader patent. This new e-book development could cause trouble for B&N's nook, as well as other e-readers on the market. reports:

Looks like the battle for e-reader dominance between Amazon and Barnes & Noble could soon expand beyond the recent spate of price drops and into the courtroom as well: the USPTO just granted a 2006 Amazon patent on e-readers with secondary LCD displays (like the original Kindle's scroller-navigation panel), and several of the claims are potentially broad enough to cover the Nook and many other devices with both electronic paper and LCD displays. What's more, Amazon agreed not to file for any corresponding foreign patents during the four-year approval process and thus wasn't required to publish the patent application -- meaning this is likely a complete surprise to the entire industry. Yeah, it's juicy. Here's one of the claims that could cause problems for Barnes & Noble -- in plain English, it potentially covers any device with both an electronic paper display and a second smaller LCD display next to it.

Learn more HERE

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