ereaders

Go Read This | Russian state fund takes 25% stake in YotaPhone – FT.com

Interesting news this. I don’t know that it will revive ereaders as a segment and I think we would be better pushing smartphone readers to simply use their current screens to read rather than making life more complicated for them, but:

YotaPhone’s makers managed to fit two devices inside one surprisingly lightweight handset. This is not just a Kindle strapped to a phone. The slim contours are even more remarkable considering the layers of protection needed prevent heat from the battery impairing the e-reader’s “ink”.

Once the basic instructions have been mastered, navigating YotaPhone becomes relatively easy – especially the central conceit of being able to” flip” content from the smartphone screen to the back e-reader.

News from the FT feed, for example, rolls down the electronic ink screen, making it easier to read and, crucially, consuming much less battery. Books and magazines can be flipped to the back to read.

via Russian state fund takes 25% stake in YotaPhone – FT.com.

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Making Frenemies: Kobo, Easons & Ebooks In Ireland

20131030_192630Easons, which once had ambitions to launch its own ereader, has joined forces with Kobo. The deal will see Easons selling Kobo devices in its 60 stores and has attracted little negative comment unlike Waterstones deal with Amazon last year. In fact it seems, so far, to have been pretty universally welcomed in the Irish trade.

Easons has, despite the aforementioned ambitions, chosen the path of least expense with regard to making its ebook offering credible and coherent. That meant, although its e-store concept was attractive, it was selling several different brands of device and its ebook platform was off the shelf and was not always as smooth as possible. What’s more its options were somewhat limited. Tesco has been selling Kindle ereaders since before last Christmas at prices well under €100 and Amazon has spent hundreds f millions making those devices and the ecosystem surrounding them, very user-friendly. The Waterstones Kindle match-up has sat oddly with the trade, the deal has also put Kindle ereaders and tablets in front of readers in many places. So Easons has been faced by deep pocketed rivals and the most likely platform partner already pretty much wrapped up with rivals.

We don’t yet know how successful this move to partner with Kobo will be. Easons is still offering Sony ereaders from its website (on 2nd November) and Kobo’s ebook offering not yet live through the retailer’s website either. Even so, Kobo has launched a new consumer facing ebook site for Ireland which will surely power Easons ebook store when the partnerships rolls out properly. The site’s not perfect yet, for instance, I can’t yet find out where to but one of the company’s tablets in Ireland yet, but that’s an easily resolved issue.

Irish facing stores are a rarity in the ebook space, on Kindle, users must choose between buying their ebooks from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. While the process is fine and workable, it still presents pricing challenges and means picking out Irish bestsellers can be hard. Apple offers an Irish facing ebook store but there’s every indicator that sales through the store have been relatively low.

The bigger question for me is what will all this mean for ebooks in Ireland. The last year or so has seen most Irish publishers begin to take ebooks very seriously with some publishers quietly indicating that digital sales are no accounting for double-digit percentages of units sold (though often a lower percentage of revenue given the disparity in price). The best indications I’ve seen suggest that while fiction is the leader, there are some fine performances  in non-fiction too and that backlist is proving its worth yet again.

“One in five books sold on Easons.com are ebooks”

Interestingly, Conor Whelan, Easons MD, said at the launch of the Kobo/Easons partnership (which took place at the launch of Kobo’s new Irish offices, itself during the Dublin Web Summit) that: “One in five books sold on Easons.com are ebooks” a fact that sailed over many people’s heads, but struck me as a very nice nugget of information. It indicates that Easons is doing much better at selling ebooks on its own than we might previously have imagined, thus suggesting the Kobo partnership might really drive ebook take up and sales in Ireland if it can connect with readers.

I’m intrigued that the offering will include more that just the ereaders. Kobo’s tablet offering is really quiet good (in the non-iPad league that is) and at €149.99, the Kobo Arc 7 will provide Easons with a reason to get non-readers in the door that the ereaders on their own simply will not. In fact at that kind of price point, the tablet may well be the most attractive part of the device line up.

Kobo has found a strong partner to grow mind-share and market share in Easons. It does have a very large presence on the high streets of Ireland as well as an impressive brand and awareness in Irish readers mindsets. The company also runs highly successful media campaigns in the run-up to Christmas and ereaders and tablets will be a leading gift category yet again in 2013 and ebooks still have lots of room for growth in Ireland.

The problem is that Kindle is dominant and massively so, and will not be pushed aside  easily. It will require a by a determined new brand and dogged execution both on the device side of things (which means hoping Easons can deliver) and on the ebook sales and promotion side of things (which means work for Kobo and its staff).  It does seem to me though that even if Kobo only manages to build a secure second player position, it could be to both its and Easons advantage. It the companies can make it work, we might begin to see the kinds of percentages that the US & UK have been seeing over the last year or 25-30% units being sold in digital form.

Here’s hoping!

Go Read This | The E-Reader Revolution: Over Just as It Has Begun? – WSJ.com

Think of it like the horseless carriage! I think that line about the real innovation is where it’s at:

“The real innovation in e-readers has been giving consumers a convenient way to buy books, wirelessly, without even having to use their computers,” says Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester Research analyst. “Giving consumers a digital storefront right in their hands, that’s what really made e-readers a phenomenon.”

But tastes and technology have moved on. People haven’t stopped reading. They are just increasingly likely to read e-books on tablets rather than e-readers, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. The polling firm found that 23% of Americans said they had read e-books in 2012, compared with 16% in 2011

via The E-Reader Revolution: Over Just as It Has Begun? – WSJ.com.

This Scares Me >> Amazon plans to launch 2 tablet PCs in 2H12

It’s a slightly unsettling and sinking feeling I get whenever I hear discussion about booksellers and others moving away from E-Ink based ereaders towards tablets. It’s not a hatred of backlit screens and the like, in fact I like them quite a bit.

Rather it’s that such a move is an implicit acceptance that the stand-alone ereader device is moving from a top priority to a secondary one. The concern for me is that as apps, movies, tv shows, music and games become bigger and better businesses for these players, books become less and less important. With such a shift, books become simply PART of a larger media mix as opposed to being the MAJOR element.

This is not a spurious concern either. B&N indicated that their Tablet device was proving a more successful product for them than their E-Ink device was. Especially because it opened up more opportunities and markets. I’ve written a bit about this previously, particularly around the launch of the Kindle Fire:

There is only so much audience attention to go around and as mobile gaming, tv and film watching and web browsing become possible for everyone, it is just possible that digital books will lose out*. Of course maybe the audience that moves digital will be big enough for this to not be an issue, but even so book publishers and authors will need to compete with movies, games and music much more directly and immediately than they have in the past.

The possibility then that the Kindle Fire presents is one where the dedicated device that has done so much to build the digital book market is, however distantly, headed for a quiet retirement and the publishers who think they have it all so sorted now are going to faced a changed game yet again.

So perhaps you understand why the brace of DigiTimes reports on the topic read this morning left me cold:
ONE

Amazon shipped 3.98 million Kindle Fire tablet PCs in the fourth quarter of 2011, taking up a 14% share of the global tablet PC market as well as the second position in the vendor rankings, according to market data.

Due to strong sales of Kindle Fire, Amazon has shifted its focus from e-book readers to tablet PCs, and so plans to launch a 10-inch model in the second half, instead of an 8.9-inch model projected previously, the sources revealed.

via Amazon plans to launch 2 tablet PCs in 2H12, say sources.

TWO

Global shipments of e-book readers are expected to reach only two million units in the first quarter of 2012, down from nine million shipped the fourth quarter of 2011, according to Digitimes Research.

Via Digitimes Research: Global shipments of e-book readers to slip to 2 million units in 1Q12

Confusing Statistics And What They Might Mean

I was thrown by several stats in this story. (E-Book Bummer: Growth Slower Than Thought—‘Incremental, Not Exponential’ | paidContent.) I touched on the issue of digital growth earlier today, but this story warrants a separate consideration.

For one:

According to new data from Bowker and the Book Industry Study Group, the number of book buyers who also purchased an e-book increased by 17 percent in 2011, compared to 9 percent in 2010 – well below the 25 to 30 percent growth that some had hoped for.

When I read this as ‘the number of book buyers who also bought a book rose from 9% to 17%’ it looks like an 89% increase in book buyers who also bought ebooks. Sure it wasn’t the 175% or 250% increase (as would be the case if the figure reached 25% or 30%) as some people seemed to expect, but it is still reasonable. For the record, I read it that way following a Twitter exchange with the author Laura Hazard Owen (who has been writing some great pieces on the publishing and digital change):

Then there is the section that says:

Seventy-four percent of book buyers have never bought an e-book (and 14 percent of those actually own an e-reader or tablet but choose not to use it to read e-books).

Parse that for a moment. 26% of book buyers HAVE bought ebooks and 14% of 76% (10.5%) also  HAVE ereaders but don’t use them. Which means that circa 36.5% of book buyers have ereaders though they may or may not use them. Meaning, that while ebook purchasing might not have spread as widely as we thought, ownership of devices seems to be spreading pretty well.

Finally there is this startling statistic:

There’s a bright spot for e-book growth: Around 7 to 12 months after buying their first e-book, 72 percent of power buyers switch over to e-books exclusively.

Which reinforces the idea I’ve been pondering for a little bit, that this current phase of ebook development is about making heavy readers, heavy ereaders.

It is the reason why B&N needs to keep Nook locked into its stores and indeed why B&N has been so successful at gaining market share, because it was converting exactly the right people BOOK BUYERS into ebook buyers. It is why Amazon’s efforts are targeted at converting their best book buyers into digital readers hence their seemingly crazy popularization of the $9.99 price point (which I might add I liked, but hey) and why a broader strategy for converting light readers might not make sense just yet.

Getting ereaders into the hands of medium and heavy readers and encouraging them to use them EVENTUALLY is the key for now. There’s a whole different battle to come once that happens. Won’t that be fun?
Eoin 

Go Read This | How publishers gave Amazon a stick to beat them with — Tech News and Analysis

Easy to say, harder to actually act on. Publishers’ room for manoeuvre is limited by numerous factors and they are far from unaware of the dangers posed by Amazon and other would be monopolists:

As some authors have pointed out, even if you take advantage of Amazon’s self-publishing options to avoid having to get a traditional publishing deal, you’ve really just exchanged one corporate overlord for another. For most writers, the ideal would be an industry with multiple players — but unfortunately, their own publishers have helped make that even less of a possibility. And Amazon is the major beneficiary.

via How publishers gave Amazon a stick to beat them with — Tech News and Analysis.

Ebooks In Europe: The Game Really IS Afoot

Kindle has just launched officially in France at €99 and a decent seeming catalogue of French titles to go with the English language books already available. Of course Amazon has also opened the French market to self-publishers and independent publishers through their Kindle Direct Platform.

Yesterday Google brought its UK ebook store online. Last week, iBooks launched in over two dozen countries around Europe. And this only six months since Amazon launched Kindle in Germany.

It is clear now that the pace of adoption of ebooks will rise in Europe if only because availability of ereaders AND ebooks is increasing rapidly here.

What’s more the price for the new Kindle, at JUST sub-€100 is very attractive. I can see many Kindle boxes under the tree this Christmas.

That means the luxury of waiting is no longer an option for booksellers. Waterstone’s may not have time to wait for the perfect ereader. To my mind it NEEDS to launch one pre-Christmas.

In short, the game is afoot and who wins is by no means clear!
Eoin