cominer

Posts Tagged ‘Barnes & Noble’

iPads vs. E-Readers: Things Looking Good for Apple

In Entertainment, Media, Technology on July 14, 2010 at 12:22 pm
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

It’s not a new theme — in fact, earlier this month, I touched upon it — but the evidence seems to be building that e-readers face a tough road ahead.

According to Mashable, a new report by Resolve Media seems to indicate that anyone selling e-readers better do whatever it takes to keep iPads out of the hands of consumers.

The report states that after buying an iPad, 49 percent of people said they would not be buying another e-reader.

There’s also bad news for other devices — 38 percent said they wouldn’t buy a portable gaming device, 32 percent said they wouldn’t buy a netbook or laptop — but it paints a very stark picture for the e-reader industry.

“E-readers should be worried,” Mashable writes. “Even before the Kindle and Nook price cuts, we were already seeing some movement with lower-priced e-readers. We think that reading-only devices will ultimately find a new market at the sub $100 price point. Even at $200, the value proposition for an e-reader versus an iPad is tough to overcome.”

So, while Amazon is shipping its newest iteration of the Kindle and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos keeps talking about how the iPad and Kindle aren’t really competitors, it seems the more people discover the iPad, the more hurt is in store for the Kindle and similar devices.

Fortunately for Amazon, the Kindle isn’t just a device, it’s a software platform, an app that works on the iPad and, I have to say, on the iPad, it’s wonderful, well-built software that makes reading on the iPad a really nice experience.

And the same’s true for Barnes and Noble. They have the Nook but they also have software that works on the iPad.

I’m the thinking that for e-reader companies, the writing’s on the wall, er, tablet.

Amazon's New Kindle: Still Too Close to the iPad?

In Entertainment, Technology on July 1, 2010 at 1:11 pm
Kindle DX and Kindle 2

Image via Wikipedia

Starting today Amazon is taking orders for its new Kindle DX and while I have no doubt that people will buy it, I really have to wonder just how many.

First off, the device — which ships July 7 — is priced at $379, which is really too expensive to be considered an impulse buy.

And it’s only $120 away from an iPad and it seems to me that’s a little too close.

What makes it a little more confusing is that just last week, Amazon seemed to recognize the importance of lowering the price, which they did with their slightly smaller version.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has frequently claimed that the iPad and the Kindle aren’t really competitors; they’re different devices intended for different people. The Kindle, he says, is for readers unlike tablets, which are for, I guess, everyone else. He said it again just the other day.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of great things about the Kindle particularly, as cnet points out, that the thing is incredibly readable in sunlight, unlike the iPad.

Still, the thing is if you have a choice between the $189 Kindle and the $379 Kindle, why get the more expensive one? I guess if you really want a device that is really just a reader, it is your answer. But if you’re going to spend the money, why not just bump it up a little and get a device that does so much more?

I think Amazon’s great but I sort of sense this is a stumble for them.

On the plus side, one bit of really good news is that Amazon has finally released Kindle for Android devices.

As I’ve pointed out, Kindle isn’t just a device — it’s software that runs on many devices. I use Kindle on my iPad on a regular basis — and Android has pretty much been the final frontier for them.

Kindle’s great software. The device — at $189 — is great. At $379 — overpriced, I suspect.

Apple and Amazon Likely Winners in Price Wars

In Entertainment, Media, Technology on June 22, 2010 at 1:14 pm
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

As I wrote yesterday, Barnes and Noble introduced a new Wi-Fi only Nook and dropped the price on its 3G Nook, undercutting Amazon’s Kindle. As a result, Amazon then dropped the price of the Kindle, undercutting the Nook, if only by $10.

It’s a price war kind of started by Apple when it introduced its iPad.

The iPad, which is not cheap — priced between $499 and $699, started the war because suddenly everyone started questioning why they should be paying hundreds of dollars for devices that are pretty much just e-readers when for a bit more they can have something that does so much more.

By lowering the price of the Nook and the Kindle, Amazon and Barnes and Noble are conceding that point, admitting that while there are people who want to be able to carry large amounts of books with them and really focused on just reading, it’s probably not the majority.

Lowering the price brings the Kindle and Nook much closer to being a legitimate impulse buy.

But is it too little too late?

Barnes and Noble (and Borders, which is about to introduce its Kobo) is a great, old-fashioned, brick and mortar retailer. They’re not a technology company. So, while the Nook with its color screen and ability to lend books is a pretty good device, I can’t imagine they’re making a fortune from it or that they even think they’re going to make a fortune from it.

It seems that the world is moving more toward tablets that do more than just allow you to carry around the complete works of Stephen King, Larry McMurtry, John Updike and a dozen others.I think when it all shakes out, we’re going to see Apple and Amazon at the top of the pile.

Why? I’m not saying Nook and Kobo and the Sony Reader and these other devices won’t be around. I’m just thinking they won’t be playing at the same level as Amazon and Apple.

First, you have Amazon, which everyone already associates with online retailing, especially books. I mean, they weren’t the first but I bet if you ask most people they would guess Amazon was. Second, as I’ve pointed out before, Kindle isn’t just a device, it’s a software platform that operates on several devices.

And it’s actually a really good bit of software.

The funny thing is that while there’s a lot to be said for Kindle the device, it’s really hard to beat Kindle for the iPad when it comes to a pleasant reading experience (despite what Ray Kurzweil thinks).

I think Amazon’s too entrenched in the minds of people to go anywhere and the fact that their software works on several devices will keep them around for quite a while. At the same time, Apple keeps showing they’re building devices to lead the pack. And with the iPad, they’ve created a device that allows for designers to turn books into apps that are fun, creative, interactive (see Alice in Wonderland).

What about Apple’s online bookstore and software, iBooks? One, it’s good but not quite as good as Kindle and two, for now it only works on Apple devices, which limits its growth.

What could change that is if Apple decides to send iBooks out into the world the way did with iTunes, making it available for Windows devices.

Fear Not, Garrison! iPad, Kindle and Company Seem to be Helping

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on May 29, 2010 at 9:41 am
Mr. Garrison Keillor

Image via Wikipedia

Garrison Keillor, whose words and voice have given me comfort in the years in his books, radio show and  his daily poem, is very worried.

In a piece for The New York Times, Keillor writes that he is worried “that book publishing is about to slide into the sea.”

He fears that e-books and self publishing will close the door on an era when “e became writers through the laying on of hands. Some teacher who we worshipped touched our shoulder, and this benediction saw us through a hundred defeats. And then an an editor smiled on us and wrote a check and our babies got shoes.”

He describes a future with “18 million authors in America, each with an average of 14 readers, eight of whom are blood relatives. Average annual earnings: $1.75.”

First off. As far as I can tell, the only real difference in Keillor’s future is that the average author will have six readers who are not blood relatives.

Really.

How many people do you know who have been slaving away, tinkering on, working at what they think could be the Great American Novel? Everybody’s a writer or thinks they are. People have been writing bad short stories, poems, sketches for hundreds of years.

And most of them haven’t made a dime.

Mr. Keillor — there’s really nothing new about that.

What’s great about self-publishing operations like Amazon’s BookSurge and Pubit from Barnes and Noble, is that it makes it easier for people to get out there and take a chance. Maybe they make nothing, maybe they made Keillor’s mythical average of $1.75.”

The important thing is that people are giving it a go.

Don’t we want a world where more people are trying to communicate? I mean, does he really he think that everyone who self-publishes thinks that they’ve really written the Great American Poem, Novel, Short Story? I’m sure some do. But I’m betting the majority are just people who feel they have something to say.

And let them say it, write it, shout it, blog it, self-publish and podcast it.

Let people dream and share those dreams.

The great writing will still find its way through.

In the meantime, grab a pen, pencil, typewriter, iPad, Kindle, whatever and write! And share what you’ve written.

There’s an audience of billions looking for something to read — the American Association of Publishers on Friday announced that book sales in March were up 16.6 percent, that they’re up eight percent for the year. Audiobook sales overall are up 14.7 percent for the year and the sales of downloaded audiobooks are up 29.3 percent.

AND e-book sales are up 251.9 percent for the year.

251.9 percent!

I would say that iPads and Kindles and Nooks and so forth are helping more people become readers and writers.

I mean, really. Does it get better? A nation where people are reading and writing? Maybe it’s not all good writing. Big deal. At least people are communicating!

Please relax, Mr. Keillor. It’s all going to be okay.

Apple, Amazon and the Department of Justice

In Uncategorized on May 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm
Image representing iTunes as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

The report from The New York Times that the Department of Justice is “examining Apple’s tactics in the market for digital music” is really about so much more than music.

While the probe seems to stem from “recent allegations that Apple used its dominant position to persuade music labels to refuse to give the online retailer Amazon.com exclusive access to music about to be released” and states that so far it’s been “broadly about the dynamics of selling music online,” it’s important to add a little context to the situation.

What’s come before and what could it mean in the future?

First, it’s important to keep in mind that even if Apple did what they’re being accused of, it’s not like this was the first shot in the war between the retailers.

As Apple got ready to unveil the iPad with its own way of selling books, the company was negotiating with publishers to allow them to sell books at different prices than Amazon was charging, which led to Amazon briefly refusing to sell books published by Macmillan.

That resulted in headlines like:

“Apple vs. Amazon: The Great E-book War has Already Begun” in Mashable;

and

Business Insider’s “The Apple-Amazon eBook War Begins”

and

“Amazon eBook Pricing Battle Gets Ugly” at The Millions.

And while Amazon eventually capitulated and started re-listing Macmillan’s titles, when they did so, they released a statement foreshadowing these new events.

“We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for ebooks,” read Amazon’s statement.

As The Guardian pointed out:

“Some publishers sensed Amazon gearing up for a legal fight with its use of the word “monopoly” in its response.

“I think they very specifically used that word,” said one source, “as a way of pointing out to regulators: ‘We wanted to sell ebooks for under $10 but there is a pact between publishers and Apple which has forced the price of ebooks.”

Which brings us to today and a look toward tomorrow.

There’s a lot of fighting going on… Apple vs. Android, Apple vs. Amazon — and yes, a lot of it involves Apple — but the fact is that companies are figuring out what they’re really good at and working on improving their market share.

At the same time that doesn’t mean competition isn’t still underway.

Amazon’s the dominant bookseller and the Kindle certainly has helped them. That hasn’t kept Apple from the iPad, Barnes and Noble from the Nook, Borders from the Kobo and so forth.

And Apple definitely leads the way in the music world with iTunes but that hasn’t stopped people — including Amazon — from competing.

Just last week was Google’s announcement they are working on bringing music to the Android marketplace in way that’s sure to make some Apple device owners drool.

So, what’s it all mean?

I suspect that as competition keeps heating up so will the complaints. In the end, though, I’m betting it’s unlikely the Justice Department gets too involved. Because once they do, where do they draw the line?

Will Bookstores Lose as IPad, Kindle, Nook Welcome Google Editions

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on May 5, 2010 at 8:10 am
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 27:  Customers view...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

It should get interesting.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that Google will start selling e-books by early summer, putting them in direct competition with Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble.

It’s not exactly been a secret that this was coming.

Last August, Google announced they were offering free downloads of more than one million books  hat are in the public domain and then in October, they revealed that they would be launching Google Editions with about 500,000 additional titles.

And last month, in The New Yorker, reporter Ken Auletta laid out some of the details:

“Google Editions will let publishers set the price of their books (the head of Google Editions) said and will accept the agency model. Having already digitized twelve million books, including out-of-print titles, Google will have a far greater selection than Amazon or Apple. It will also make e-books available for bookstores to sell, giving “the vast majority” of revenues to the store.”

In the beginning, though, it appears that that the only books Google might only be able to sell are those in the public domain.

They are still involved in a long-running court battle, trying to get approval to move forward with their plans for Google Books, which would display books that are copyrighted but out of print along with with books that have eetered the public domain.

Google’s plans had been challenged by the Author’s Guild and the Association of American Publishers. While there was a settlement, it has not been approved as the judge considers objections including some from the Department of Justice, which has concerns over several issues including anti-trust.

And even if they get approval, there does seem to be at least one more hurdle — last month several groups representing visual artists announced plans to challenge Google’s plans.

Another issue is that it’s being reported that Google does not yet have deals in place with publishers.

Regardless of potential roadblocks, this development has the potential to be tougher on Amazon than on Apple because Google Editions seems closer in design to Kindle than IPad in that while the IPad is a device, Kindle is software that works on multiple devices.

But — even more at risk from this latest news are actual bookstores, you know the kind you walk into where you can handle the books and interact with people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for books being available for purchase online (just check my bank statements). At the same time, I am concerned that the more book sales take place over the Internet, the less they are taking place in stores.

And when that happens, you start reading about bookstores closing.

From Miami to Seattle to Omaha and Boston, the same story is being written: bookstores are closing.

So, as Google Editions gets set to launch and IPad and Kindle and Nook battle it out and new readers keep coming on the market, try to break away from the screen every once in a while and head down to your local bookstore (if you still have one, if you don’t a chain will do), peruse the shelves, buy a magazine, a book, something.

IPad vs. Nook vs. Kindle: Who's Winning (If anyone)?

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 28, 2010 at 9:29 am
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

So, it’s been almost a month since the IPad came out and the question on everyone’s mind — is the Kindle dead yet?

Well, maybe that’s not the question on everyone’s mind but I’m sure someone, somewhere, might be wondering. After all, a lot of the talk (here included) was about whether or not it would be a Kindle killer, would it help the Kindle or would the two find a way to co-exist.

Before we get to that, though, let’s take a quick look at the pre-IPad world.

According to a report earlier this week from Digitimes Research, which tracks this sort of thing, in March — the Nook from Barnes and Noble outsold the KIndle, accounting for roughly 53 percent of all e-book readers shipped that month.

The site attributed that to the fact that the Nook was fairly new, the Kindle had been on the market, and people were curious about the new thing.

Digitimes estimates that 1.43 million e-reader devices shipped during the first quarter of 2010, the last quarter Before IPad.

So, where does Apple’s new device fit into this landscape?

Well, keep that 1.43 million number in mind.

First, there was the announcement from Apple that they had sold 300,000 units the first day, which was a testament to the company’s ever-successful hype machine (plus the fact they tend to deliver on that hype).

Then, less than a week later, while unveiling the new IPhone operating system, they revealed they had sold another 150,000 devices.

Now, let me introduce you to Chitika Labs, which has been using cookies to track IPad sales. They concede it’s not a perfect system but, they seem pretty confident.

As of this writing, their live counter indicated that more than 1.1 million IPads have been sold already.

Which brings us back to the beginning: who’s winning? Well, on one level, it would seem Apple based on sales alone.

But what does it all mean? Does it mean the Kindle is doomed? The Nook’s on its way out?

With meaning to be too much of a wuss, I would have to say the answers are: it’s too early too really tell but my sense is, it’s all good and no and no.

While I have a soft spot for the printed word, books and newspapers that I can hold in my hand, and want them to be around for a long time — and am also concerned that the emphasis on e-readers, could take away from kids in schools, I do think that anything that gets people reading more is probably a good thing.

The question that remains, though, is that what’s happening?

According to Appitzr.com, which tracks apps, books make up more than one out of every five apps available in the ITunes store — 22 percent — yet account for only 3 percent of apps that are downloaded.

In other words, while new devices keep coming out, it may be too early to declare a winner and, in the meantime, keep visiting bookstores — an independent one, if you can.

Everyone Say Hello to 'Alex'

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized on April 15, 2010 at 8:33 am

Think that the E-Reader battle comes down to the iPad vs. the Kindle?

Or maybe the Nook vs. the Sony Reader?

Well, meet Alex from Spring Design who started shipping yesterday.

As cnet pointed out, it probably would have been bigger news had it come out before the IPad. Regardless, it looks like it’s something that deserves notice.

First — take a look at the features and one thing immediately jumps out — the second screen.

It has one for reading and a second, smaller – color — screen that is a fully-enabled, android-powered web browser. So, you’re reading… you want to send an email, no problem. Want to look up movie times and then, maybe take a break from reading? Sure. Watch some videos? Absolutely.

Or maybe you want to listen to music while you read? No problem. Wi-fi? Check. Removable memory? Check.

Laptop Magazine was so impressed with the device, it named it the best E-Reader at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Though, it’s important to point out, that not everyone loves it.

Engadget, in their review,  they point to several shortcomings such as while: “the Alex is chock-full of reading features…we just can’t say the same about its book selection” and “When it came to multitasking, the Alex was just fine for reading a book and listening to some music, but when we threw in web browsing things began to slow to a crawl.”

Endgaget had also taken issue with Alex’s price, which was listed at $399 at the time.

But, now that it’s priced at $359 — right between the Kindle and the IPad — it’s got a good shot at getting attention on the checkout line.

And, as Wired points out, in addition to competing against Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Apple and so forth in the market, Alex is making a point of going after a slice of the market that could prove quite lucrative — Spanish Language E-Books.

So, while a lot of the most creative design work seems to still be being done for IPad, and there’s still the Google Tablet to come, Alex just might be able to find his place in the world.

And, based on their decision to seemingly embrace Spanish-language E-Books, maybe this post should have been “Everyone Say Hola to Alex.”

Anyway, just to give you a heads up about what I’m expecting to make its way from my reading list to news over here… posts about David Foster Wallace, Norman Mailer, Natalie Merchant and so much more.

Thanks for reading.