Why Publishers Should Jump on the iPad Bandwagon
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eReaders & eBook Prices

Picture 2I considered opening with a snarky comment about the Nook ereader.  Something about how it's destined to be the RC Cola of ereaders seemed appropriate.  And when I went looking for a graphic to insert, guess what I found?  Amazon is actually selling the Barnes & Noble device on their own site!  Whodathunkit?

Nevertheless, how would you like to have been B&N these last couple of weeks?  There you are, trying to get some enthusiasm for your newly-released Nook while Amazon is fighting for any sort of attention amidst the biggest announcement in years: Apple's iPad.  Good luck with that.  It kind of makes Borders look smart for staying on the sidelines and merely reselling the Sony Reader.

I came across a number of interesting articles this week and I wanted to share them here along with my thoughts on each:

Gizmodo says $9.99 ebook prices are dead.  I agree...to an extent.  The agency model is a good way to put the brakes on Amazon's race to the pricing bottom but as an industry we've got to get beyond simple print-to-e conversions.  Let's add value, people.  Otherwise, $9.99 might be the high end of what consumers will pay.

Mike Nash leaves Microsoft for Amazon's Kindle.  Boy, I can't wait to see how this one plays out.  It gives me hope that maybe, just maybe someone at Amazon will finally have a sense of urgency about moving the Kindle platform forward.  If it seems like a long time ago when Amazon wowed everyone with Whispernet and eInk it's because it was.  Not much has changed on that platform since November 2007 but maybe Nash can turn it around.

As $9.99 ebooks evaporate, the Kindle will suffer, or so says Adrian Kingsley-Hughes.  He makes some good points in his article, but I'm still wondering about Amazon's tactics.  Ever since they started selling $9.99 ebooks at a loss I figured they would eventually come back to publishers armed with loads of data to show why the industry needs to adopt that pricing model.  After all, how long was Amazon planning to lose money on these sales?  And if they wanted to make a compelling case, they should have taken it not just to publishers but to the public in general.  That never happened and the iPad has already dealt a serious blow to Amazon's upper hand in all of this.  This seems like an enormous strategic blunder.

Although it took Amazon more than 2 years to even consider building an app store ecosystem like the one that's made the iPhone a runaway success, maybe there's still hope for the Kindle platform after all.  Jared Newman offers up these 8 Kindle apps he hopes to see.  Yes, even a one-trick pony like the Kindle can benefit from add-on applications.

P.S. -- I've already mentioned that I'm ditching my Kindle for the iPad.  That means I'm also completely stepping away from my Kindleville blog.  Paul Higginbotham has done a great job running Kindleville for the past year or so and I'm looking for others who might want to join him in that effort.  In the mean time, stay tuned for what I plan to do in the not-too-distant future on the iPad front...

Comments

Kevin

I think ebooks will only really start taking off when they are offered as an additional option to a physical book. Buy a book, and for $3 more, get the ebook version? Why not? This already is happening with movies and music... Stop treating the electronic version and the physical version as two different things...

Stefano

Actually, I believe that the 12.99$ (or 14.99$, or whatever) price tag will prove difficult to sustain in the long run. It may be useful now, to prevent Amazon to gain too much power, but in a few years' time I think there will be a strong pressure to lower prices.

What is needed here is a new model - both a production and business model, I would say. An e-book cannot simply be the same pdf you print.
I strongly agree when you ask to "add value, people": the consumer is willing to pay for something that has a perceived value.

My belief is actually that there is a strong need for innovations and experiments. But the main point is to keep attention on the reader, and on the reader's experience: new formats and devices change the way in which one reads the texts, and in the end change texts themselves.
There is a space for "simple" e-books, maybe also sold with the phisical book, but I'm convinced there is a big, big space for new ways of selling content.

Francis Hamit

There are several false assumptions. The first is that Amazon Kindle sells any significant amount of books that are not either current bestsellers or free public domain titles. Macmillian and the other big publishers were wise to stop Amazon from cannibalizing their products in an effort to sell their own machine. My own experience with my novel "The Shenandoah Spy" priced at $12.95 but sold mostly by Amazon at $9.95 or half the price of the print edition, was less than one percent of the total copies sold. Regardless of the merit of the book, the ratio is significant. E-books are a niche, not a mass market proposition. In an effort to make their machine more attractive, Amazon.com undermined midlist authors. Adding text to speech cannibalized another market; audiobooks (And don't tell me how bad the current system is but look ahead a few years to when market pressure make them improve it with the"natural voice" technology already used in telephone systems).

Lower prices do not sell automatically sell books. Every book is unique and some cannot even be given away. Adding enhanced features may not do anything for sales either. Adding short video clips or deeper text sections might make a text book more valuable, but will do nothing for works of fiction other than confuse the narrative line. This is why we edit; to provide a clear path through a story. It seems to me to be an extra cost for no real value added. I do have a map in the print version. We couldn't load it to the Kindle version. I think if people want to read a book they will pay a reasonable price and the current tiered pricing structure in place is a proven business model. Amazon was undermining it by providing a cheaper edition simultaneously with the first release hardbound. And they didn't really loose any money on those cheaper editions because they demanded a 65% discount from list price. Plenty of margin to play with.

In the future smaller publishers will use a combination of Print On Demand and e-book releases to roll out new titles, because as long as we get our wholesale, we don't really care what retailers charge, but predatory pricing to grab market share at the retail level will become a thing of the past. Books are luxury items and times are hard. People will wait if they can't afford them or use the public library. Publishers will have to really consider their up-front preparation costs and likely return on investment before committing to a new title in any format.

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