Friday, July 16, 2010

Attack of the EReader

When the iPad came out speculation started about which would win the eBook wars - the iPad or the Kindle? What people didn't seem to understand is that Amazon doesn't really care. As long as they do not lose money selling the Kindle, market control does not matter. That is because they are after dominance of the eBook market, not the reader. In fact, they give away Kindle applications for the iPad, the iPhone, android phones, and PCs.

Things in the eBook market got really interesting a few weeks ago.

First Barns and Noble cut the price of their eBook reader, the Nook. Amazon followed by cutting prices on the Kindle. Now Borders has entered the eBook market. Rather than subsidize their own reader, Borders is selling four readers made by others. These readers lack the wireless and cell phone features of the Kindle and the Nook which makes them less expensive. The lowest price one, the Libre eBook Reader Pro is only $119. Unlike the others, it uses a black and white LCD instead of the E Ink that nearly every other reader uses. This gives it a shorter battery life but makes the display refresh faster and gives better contrast. Like Amazon, Borders also has eBook reader software for a variety of platforms. Borders also supports the open EPub standard rather than using their own proprietary standard.

With an entry price around $120-$150, eBook readers start looking attractive. If you only buy a dozen books you are ahead financially and there is a lot to be said for the small, lightweight form factor. Also, there are a lot of books that are otherwise out of print.

Music players show that connecting to a PC to control content is not a burden. My Zune HD can sync wirelessly but I seldom use that feature. As long as I am syncing content, I might as well charge the battery. The Kindle's original Whispernet was meant to encourage people to make impulse purchases or to pay premium rates for newspapers and magazines. I do not have a long commute on a train so I have no need for these.

Over a decade ago technologists told the recording industry that it had to change or die. It refused to listen until Steve Jobs convinced them to sign on with iTunes. Now that is their biggest source of income.

Hopefully publishers will not make the same mistakes. There may always be a place for paper and cardboard but electronics will play an increasing role in future publishing.

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