Tag Archives | E-books

Borders Did Itself In

In an excellent story, Ben Austen of Businessweek confirms that the death of Borders had more to do with bad decisions on its part than e-books rendering dead-tree books obsolete anytime soon:

Nashville’s story is not unique. When Borders declared bankruptcy in February, more than 200 of its 400 outlets were still “highly profitable,” says its final chief executive officer, Mike Edwards. There’s no question that the book industry is in flux, with digital sales last year making up about $900 million of the $28 billion-a-year market and increasing fast. But a sizable portion of the book business is still taking place in actual stores. Barnes & Noble (BKS), the nation’s largest book retailer, hasn’t been forced to close its 700 locations. Thus, it wasn’t Amazon (AMZN) —or Amazon alone—that sank Borders. “When there’s a massive transition in an industry, the strong players make it through to the other side,” explains David A. Schick, a retail analyst who covers booksellers for Stifel Nicolaus Equity Research (SF). “What gets caught up in the change are the weaker players.”

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Kobo to Apple: We’re Building Our Own HTML5 E-Bookstore

Apple’s new App Store policies–the ones I worried about when they were announced months ago–have kicked in. From now on, app makers who sell content such as books and music have two ways of making it available. They can use Apple’s In-App Purchase system to sell content within the app (giving Apple a 30 percent commission). Or they can sell it directly to consumers through their own venues, such as Web-based stores–but can include no mentions or links relating to that fact in the iOS app itself.

Many third-party developers are choosing one route or the other without any public fuss. Canadian e-book purveyor Kobo is being a tad more prickly. It’s updated its iOS app with a new version that meets the new rules–it lets you read books you’ve purchased, but provides no way to buy them or register for a Kobo account, nor any explanation of how to do so. But it’s also announcing plans to build an HTML5 e-reading app which will work in the iOS browser–and which it’ll control itself, with no requirement that it follow Apple’s rules. And the company’s chief iOS architect is detailing the Byzantine approval process which the Kobo app had to go through before Apple would finally approve it. (The essentially similar Borders app wasn’t forced to jump through as many hoops, a reminder of the biggest problem with App Store rules: they’re sometimes applied in an inconsistent, apparently arbitrary fashion.)

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New Sony Readers

Sony pretty much invented the modern e-reader. But it was Amazon that perfected it–and Sony’s models have generally felt like they delivered too little for too much money. But Cliff Edwards of Bloomberg says that new Sony Readers will arrive shortly.


Barnes & Noble’s New Nook Attempts to Out-Kindle the Kindle

Barnes & Noble’s first e-reader was the original E Ink version of the Nook, which had its virtues but lagged far behind Amazon.com’s Kindle in terms of overall polish. Then the company released the Nook Color, which went off in an un-Kindle-ish direction: color, richly-formatted magazines, and Android apps.

Today, B&N announced another new Nook–and this one, it appears, is meant to take the Kindle on more squarely than either of its predecessors.It’s $139 (matching the price of the Wi-Fi Kindle, but not the ad-supported one). It looks like a Kindle, with a gray case and 6″ E Ink screen (and no color touchscreen strip, the most striking feature of the original Nook). It stresses great battery life–in fact, Barnes & Noble is claiming two months on a charge, vs. one month for the Kindle.

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Kindle Books Outsell Dead-Tree Books

First, Amazon.com started selling more Kindle books than hardcovers. Then Kindle tombs overtook paperbacks. And now Amazon is trumpeting a new milestone: it’s selling more Kindle books than hardcovers and paperbacks combined.

Amazon quotes founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in its press release:

Customers are now choosing Kindle books more often than print books.  We had high hopes that this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly — we’ve been selling print books for 15 years and Kindle books for less than four years.

I’m startled, too–as interesting as the Kindle obviously was when it shipped in November of 2007, I would have guessed that books for it would become a healthy minority of Amazon’s business within a few years, not the majority in terms of unit sales. (Then again, Amazon has marketed the Kindle far more aggressively than I would have predicted, more or less turning over its home page to Kindle promotion.)

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Apple’s E-Book Policy Claims an Early Victim

In a venomous blog post, a startup called BeamItDown Software says it’s going out of business, and squares the blame entirely on Apple’s in-app purchase policy.

BeamItDown’s iFlow Reader, a digital reading app for iOS, relied on e-book sales for revenue. But because Apple takes a 30 percent cut of anything purchased within an app, and e-book publishers only give 30 percent their revenue to the book seller, iFlow Reader would actually lose money on every book sold.

“We put our faith in Apple and they screwed us,” BeamItDown’s blog post says.

BeamItDown may not be the last victim, either, because the policy that caused this small company to go out of business may soon be unavoidable for major e-book players like Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

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Amazon To Offer Kindle Local Library Lending

It’s a sign of the times. Amazon on Wednesday said that it will allow Kindle users to borrow e-books from their local libraries. The service would be available at about 11,000 locations nationwide, and will also be open to those using Kindle applications.

The offering is part of a partnership with OverDrive, which already offers digital content solutions for libraries (and which has had a similar relationship with Sony for the latter’s Reader e-readers since 2009). Head to OverDrive’s website to see if your local library may be one of them — mine is!

Unlike regular library books, you’ll be able to annotate titles just like you can with purchased Kindle books. The notes will not appear to the next person checking out the book. But if you check it out again or even purchase the title from Amazon, your notes will still be there.

Amazon doesn’t have a solid release date for this, only saying in a press release that it would be available “later this year.” We’ll keep an eye on this and let you know when its available.

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Unsettled: Judge Says Google Book Deal Would be Monopoly

It looks like Google’s attempt to bury the hatchet with authors and publishers in its bid to digitize a world’s worth of books may be in jeopardy after a New York federal judge on Tuesday rejected a $125 million settlement reached in October 2008.

Google promotes that settlement on its Google Books page as “with a broad class of authors and publishers to make the world’s books even more accessible online,” but Judge Denny Chin was having none of it. Chin said the deal would “arguably give Google control over the search market,” and that its terms went too far. Specifically: That the settlement would give Google a “de facto monopoly” on digitized content.

You may have heard that Google wants to scan and convert to text every book in the known universe. You may have heard that notion sold by politicians like John Conyers as possibly “the greatest innovation in book publishing since the Gutenberg press.” You may also have heard it called “a disaster for scholars,” or as UC Berkeley language professor and longtime NPR contributor Geoffrey Nunberg puts it, “a mishmash wrapped in a muddle wrapped in a mess.”

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Borders Goes Bankrupt

Borders, the second-largest bookstore in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy and will close 200 of its 642 stores. It may close another 75 if the company can’t get concessions from landlords.

You might think Borders was the first major casualty of the digital book boom, but the store’s problems may actually be tied up in the previous digital revolution. An Engadget commenter who claims to be a former Borders employee makes a good point to that end:

“Borders made a big commitment to selling CDs & DVDs — large sections of the stores were devoted to this content in the 90s and early 00s. new stores were designed and built in an effort to give multimedia a large segment of the store space.

“In the end, Borders has failed because [its] stores got too big and the demand for CDs and DVDs dropped — there was just no way to pay the bills.”

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I Own a "Vast Kindle Library," and I'm Worried

Today, I wanted to buy a book. I did what I usually do these days before I plunk down my money for one: I checked to see if it was available as an Amazon Kindle e-book–one which I’d be able read not only on a Kindle but also on an iPad, an iPhone, an Android phone, a Mac, or a PC. It was. My finger instinctively lunged towards the 1-Click button.

And then it dawned on me: With the recent development that Apple is going to require creators of e-reader apps to sell books using its in-app purchasing feature, it’s not the least bit clear what the fate of Kindle books on Apple devices will be. (Apple says that as long as e-readers support in-app purchases, they’ll be able to retain access to digital books bought elsewhere–even though this violates the App Store approval guidelines.)

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