Kindle

The End of Amazon

Empires, by definition, begin their decline at their peak. Today Amazon bestrides the publishing world like Caesar, and it may seem far-fetched to think of this company slipping from its dominant position. There is some doubt, however, that Amazon can continue to augment its control over so many facets of the industry. Although there may be more growth ahead, the environment Amazon operates in is evolving and rivals may force their way through cracks in the fortress.

Joe Esposito has a great essay over on Publishing Frontier. You should go read it!

Eoin

Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 12/12/2009

Colm & The LaZarus Key

I like the structure of that date, it has a good look to it.

Here is a link to JA Konrath’s rather interesting list of ebook predicitions from the start of the month. I missed it then and only read it today.

A brace of great posts from Booksquare; here & here.

Great post about what gamers can teach publishers, really fascinating:

the tabletop role-playing gaming industry started out by trying to model the methods of traditional publishing, found out the hard way that that really didn’t work for them (in the long run, it’s not working for big publishers either, but they’re BIG, so they didn’t notice as soon), and had to find new solutions. They were the first to adopt electronic publishing, shame-free POD printing, electronic-only publishing, podcasting-modules, mixed media releases, and every other experimental method anyone could think of, good or bad. That’s fine: they’re small, and experimenting is something small groups of people can DO that big groups can’t.

By the way is anyone getting the feeling that Seth Godin was SO far ahead of the curve with Small is the New Big? Coz I am!

Last but by far not least, the Irish Times has a list of fabulous books for kids this Christmas, including one of an un-mentioned (on this list) favourites (I thought another self commissioned title was pushing it!): Colm & The Lazarus Key by Kieran Mark Crowley who will be one of Ireland’s best known writers for children soon, of that I am certain. The smartly excellent cover is the work of the wonderful Emma over @ Snowbooks, if you need cover work, she’s your girl.

Reading like a demon, but only just keeping up!
Eoin

4 Reasons To Think That The Kindle International Was Released Early

[picapp src=”7/c/5/5/Amazon_CEO_Jeff_711f.jpg?adImageId=4721042&imageId=4728104″ width=”500″ height=”504″ /]

UPDATE: A bonus #5: No content on the Amazon Kindle Global Blog!
Update: Making it #6: UK Kindle buyers (and by extension Irish Kindles readers) pay 40% more for ebooks

This is just a short list but here are some reasons I suspect this is a rush release by Amazon:

    1) It’s not shipping till 19th October! Did they need the news before Frankfurt and not have the device ready?
    2) No country specific sites, you need to order the device from Amazon.com
    3) The iphone/itunes app is not yet live in Ireland, I doubt it is live in the UK yet either (Twitpic)
    4) No word on the extension of the Digital Text Platform to other countries (that would extend the device to independents and authors outside of the US, currently you need a US Bank Account)

I’m sure there are more, but this feels like something of a rushed and to my mind fluffed launch, despite the massive space given on four site home-pages to the product!

More on Kindle International here too,
Eoin

Kindle goes worldwide

Amazon announce the international kindle

Amazon announce the international kindle

IT WILL SHIP TO IRELAND (SEE BELOW FOR MORE)

So Amazon announced that they are now allowing pre-orders of the Kindle worldwide. They launched no country specific sites for this, just a letter on the homepage of Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr and Amazon.co.jp. You MUST order from Amazon.com

Kindle Germany

Kindle Germany


Kindle France

Kindle France


Kindle Japan

Kindle Japan

The NYT has a story on the release:

International users of the new Kindle will have a slightly smaller collection of around 200,000 English-language books to choose from, and their catalogs will be tailored to the country they purchased the device in. Amazon said it would sell books from a range of publishers including Bloomsbury, Hachette, HarperCollins, Lonely Planet and Simon & Schuster.

Among the apparent holdouts: Random House, which is owned by Bertelsmann, the German media conglomerate. Stuart Applebaum, a Random House spokesman, said the company’s “discussions with Amazon about this opportunity are ongoing, productive and private.”

As does our own Irish Times (though, to be frank, it’s basically a rewrite of the NYT piece).

I’ve checked and Amazon will allow preorders for Ireland, but the full cost is

    Items: $279.00 ($20 more than the US version for no apparent reason)
    Shipping & Handling: $20.98
    Total Before Tax: $299.98
    Estimated Tax:* $0.00
    Import Fees Deposit $64.50 (Customs will make us pay this anyway so that’s free money for Amazon as far as I can tell)
    Order Total: $364.48 (For an ereader, you must be joking!)

But think on this
Amazon devoted the front page of FOUR of their international sites to this product. It must be making them money in large amounts or else why would they do that. Two posts I read yesterday pointed to royalty statemenst reflecting good sales for ebooks, this one by Andrew Savikas (from an author perspective, well an author who is a publisher) and this one from kirstin Nelson (so from an gents perspective). I wonder what the kindle element of that is? Perhaps we really have passed the point of no return.

Interesting times as they say,
Eoin

Ebooks, heating up? People disagree!

Eoin Purcell

Seriously mixed up day for me on the ebook front, reading wise that is! I still find it hard to deal with the fact that there can be such differing opinions on ebooks as you’ll read here. On the one hand I read this considered post by Trevor Dolby on the Bookbrunch blog:

The simple truth is that at present these devices are not changing the way we read. No matter how much vested interests bellow at me in an attempt to change my mind, they are not going to persuade me that my cat is a dog.

No one can dispute that mp3 players revolutionized the way we listen to music. They did so because the technology was a clear advance. But books are uniquely suited to paper. All these devices do is mimic electronically what the humble ink on paper does. The only USPs are rather minor. You can have 100 books with you at any one time – how many books can you read over a week? And you can get new ones quicker. (I’ll save the price issue for another time.) I don’t think I’m unique in the use of my e-reader. It’s continually running out of battery power, it’s slow, and, crucially, I cannot advertise how clever and interesting I am to young ladies on the Tube, since there’s no cover.

I will go along with him on the basics there, perhaps the devices are not that nice looking or that clever and maybe, as he says in the final notes of the piece:

It is the convergent devices that will take over the market. The unannounced but pretty much certain iTablet and its equivalents will be the devices that we all read books on. OK, you say, so what about e-Ink – isn’t that supposed to be the major distinguishing feature? Well you are not going to tell me that Steve Jobs hasn’t made a call to a small team of boffins in Cupertino and said, Right fellas, I want a program that mimics e-Ink: stable and energy-efficient and looks like “the real thing”.

In five years the Kindle and Sony e-book will no longer exist. On our wafer-thin computers, like large iPods, we will be reading a book while listening to music. The phone will ring or mail will ping, the machine will ask if you want to answer, you will chat, then the machine will ask if you want to continue reading. As for battery life, these devices will recharge continually via wi-fi.

Then I read this piece in Publishers Weekly:

Of e-book downloads through July, 40% were made to computers, down from 48% at the end of the first quarter. Quickly gaining in market share over the summer were downloads to the Kindle. This was especially true in July, when downloads to computers plunged, while downloads to the Kindle soared. As a result, in July, for the first time in PubTrack’s monthly survey of consumers, Kindle downloads topped computers, accounting for 45% of all e-book downloads in the month. Also enjoying a spike in July were downloads to the iPhone, likely due to the release of the new 3G iPhone and accompanying e-book apps. That July spurt in iPhone downloads came after a lull in the spring and brought the iPhone’s market share at the end of July close to where it was in the first quarter. And while Sony created a lot of buzz last week with the announcement of its new wireless device (see p. 6), it has lots of ground to cover before it catches the Kindle, holding only a 6% market share at the end of July.

And as you can see that certainly suggests that we need to keep an eye on the Kindle and Sony and the convergent devices may not be as great as Trevor might wish. Finally I read this piece on the Thomas RIggs % Co. blog, An eBook Reality Check:

According to Bowker, in 2008 ebooks represented only 0.6 percent of all books sold in the United States. The majority of buyers were men, and more than half were between the ages of 18 and 34. This year ebook sales will still be less than 2 percent of the U.S. book market.

Here’s something else to ponder.

Most people prefer paper. According to a recent survey, only 37 percent of Americans are interested in buying an ereader. Here in France I’m often at the beach and see one person after another stetched out in the sun reading a paperback. Not an ereader in sight.

Now to me that Thomas Riggs post is the outlier of the pack. You only need to look at the industry stats on the IDPF website to see that although those 2008 stats are interesting, the Q2 2009 figures are almost 3 Times the Q2 figures. So where do these divergent views come from? How can people in the same industry on the one hand think a) ebooks are that big and b) ebooks are big, c) that the Kindle and Sony Reader are growing and d) that the Kindle and Sony Reader are dead.

Still thinking about digital.
Eoin

Links of Interest (At Least to Me) 26/09/2009

Eoin Purcell

It is nice to know that success in publishing is by no means ruled out for even for those who have passed on. Julia Child‘s Mastering The Art of French Cooking is storming the New York Times Best Seller Charts because of the movie? Who know why, but great story.

Daily Financelooks under the hood” of Jane Friedmann’s newish outfit and what she may be up to:

A publishing executive who preferred not to be quoted by name said that the wholesale consolidation and downsizing in the book business over recent years has created the perfect conditions for a venture based on snapping up and monetizing forgotten books. “A lot of editorial intelligence and institutional memory has been laid off or merged out of existence,” he says. “There’s a lot of owned intellectual property that’s radically underexploited.”

Rumour has it that Amazon is launching the Kindle in Europe very soon. I am not so sure.

Interesting thoughts on the future of the publishing industry from Douglas Rushkoff in Publisher’s Weekly. I’m not sure I agree with everything, but some of it makes sense:

Publishing is a sustainable industry—and a great one at that. The book business, however, was never a good fit for today’s corporate behemoths. The corporations that went on spending sprees in the 1980s and ’90s were not truly interested in the art of publishing. These conglomerates, from Time Warner to Vivendi, are really just holding companies. They service their shareholders by servicing debt more rapidly than they accrue it. Their businesses are really just the stories they use to garner more investment capital. In order to continue leveraging debt, they need to demonstrate growth. The problem is that media, especially books, can’t offer enough organic growth—people can only read so many books from so many authors

Mike Shatzkin floats some thoughts on debut pricing for ebooks and so does the Bait ‘n’ Beer blog. Both worth reading.

Several book purchases made today, 1, 2, 3, 4 in fact!
Eoin

There is literally too much digital news to know where to start

Eoin Purcell

But start we must
So how about with this piece from Crain’s New York about a new ebook publishing house (strangely sans website yet) OR Books. The house is run by, John Oakes and Colin Robinson, two veterans of New York’s independent literary scene. To my mind the most interesting tidbit in the article was in terms of their business plan:

Publishing only e-book and print-on-demand editions, OR won’t have to deal with any returns. The company also won’t share revenue with distributors, wholesalers and bookstores, which together can collect as much as 60% of sales. The savings will go into online marketing campaigns that will run about $50,000 to $75,000 per title—huge sums for so-called mid-list books.

Print-on-demand trade paperbacks will sell for $15 apiece, but the partners have yet to decide what to charge for e-books. Typically, prices for new titles range from around $26, or the same as a hardcover, to the discounted $9.99 that Amazon charges for most of its Kindle titles.

OR will also make a small number of books available to cooperating bookstores on a nonreturnable basis. And it will consider a title a success if it sells just 5,000 electronic copies.

I’ve added the emphasis there. That, frankly seems a pretty significant sum to be even contemplating in ad spend online (or will that mean print ads for ebooks? And the ebook price is not yet set? Stranger and stranger I say.

Wherever Spanish is read
Everywhere online and digital if the latest reports are to be believed. The top three Spanish publishers have joined forces to create a digital distributor. Seems eminently sensible. A much fuller article can be read on Publishing Perspectives a relative but very interesting newcomer to the publishing news scene, focused on international views and opinions. from the text it seems like these major players have developed a pretty sensible model too:

In negotiations with the Association of Spanish Literary Agencies (ADAL), the publishers have agreed to price ebooks at 80% of a printed books cover price, with a standard 25% royalty rate. Booksellers will be offered a maximum discount of 50%.

The truth, plain and unvarnished
I’ll only cover three items today and perhaps do a follow up post tomorrow, but that third item must be Andrew Savikas’ really gauntlet throwing down piece over at o”Reilly Radar in which he basically calls B*llsh*t in people who think the value is in theur conent. twitter has been abuzz with publisher types praising it all day and with real reason. it is clear, concise and devastating for those who disagree with his perspective:

“But people are still buying content when they buy a book or an album,” the argument goes. Yes, they are. The same way that you’re buying food when you go to a restaurant. You are purchasing calories that your body will convert to energy. But few restaurants (especially those you visit frequently) have ingredients any different from those you can get yourself at the corner store, for much less money. So it can’t be true that your primary goal is to purchase food; you’re purchasing a meal, prepared so you don’t have to, cleaned up so you don’t have to, and done so in a pleasing and convenient atmosphere. You are paying for the preparation of the food and the experience of eating it in the restaurant, not the food itself [2] (beyond the raw cost of the physical ingredients, which in the case of digital content is effectively zero).

And to finish the sad news, for the staff of Borders in Blanchardstown, the book buyers and the publishers of Ireland is that the only Irish store in the UK arm is closing along with four UK based branches. It is a real shame, I liked the store though I will freely admit I got there irregularly. I wish there was some way to avoid this outcome.

Not happy this evening,
Eoin