Sunday, July 25, 2010

Battle for Ebook Supremacy Rages On

Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, recently announced that sales figures for Kindle ebooks passed those figures for hardcovers. He commented for every 100 hardcover books sold, 143 Kindle ebooks were sold for a three-month period and 180 Kindle ebooks last month alone. He also said three times as many Kindles were sold in the first half of this year than for that of 2009. Some people question these numbers but it’s clear that ebook sales are accelerating much faster than paper sales.
It's also true that the iPad is selling by the hundreds of thousands. Steve Jobs has a hit with Apple fans as the iPad is capable of doing many things. Web-browsing, watching movies, checking email, playing games and other activities make the iPad the choice for people who want to do much more than just read.
Barnes & Noble slashed the price of its WiFi only Nook to $149 and the WiFi plus 3G Nook to $199. These prices are lower than the Kindle at $189 and Kindle DX for $379. Barnes & Noble may be forced to take drastic measures now that they’ve fully entered this battle. They are the largest physical space bookseller and may have finally recognized their survival depends on selling ebooks en masse.
Besides that, Borders has the Kobo, Sony's got the Reader, Google Editions unveils itself soon and many other devices like one from Sharp are in contention to sell ebooks. So with all these providers and gadgets in an ebook market, is there room for everyone?
Probably not. But at least some things are evident:
1. Apple has no real competition. Because the iPad does infinitely more than just read books and because their fans are loyal until death, that product is a guaranteed winner. I wonder whether Indie authors will do better by selling ebooks through their iBookstore or if it's necessary to create an App.
2. Amazon has been in this game for a long time. The Kindle is highly preferred by people who just want to read. One problem with the Kindle is its .mobi format, primarily unique to Amazon and not compatible with most other devices. Though Bezos is firmly committed to lowered costs for ebooks and since Amazon does much more than just sell ebooks; it seems that Amazon will surely be around for many years.
3. Barnes & Noble could easily lose the most as it must stay afloat in this ebook battle. Since they didn’t take charge early on, I’m curious if that hesitancy will cost them. Enormous physical stores are expensive to operate, and all B&N does is sell books. Perhaps they can stay afloat but it will more likely happen if the Nook is simply perfect and they continue to drop prices for ebooks. To me, theirs is the most precarious position.
4. As for everyone else, there may or may not be room for a dozen other sellers and devices. Google Editions will be a winner because… well, because they’re Google and they’ve got gillions to cushion any mistakes. For the others it may come down to who can make the best device that sells for the least amount of money. We saw Sony die in a battle with Betamax versus VHS many years ago, but we also know that Macintosh can comfortably exist next to the domination of the PC. Mergers and acquisitions also loom large here, so who might get in bed together? Google and Barnes & Noble? Seems possible.
5. The only absolute certainty… it’s never been a better time to be a writer, Indie author or a self-publisher. Of course the odds are against success, but with persistence and a good product the chances improve dramatically now that there are so many means of making a writing career into a reality.
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