…as the growth in ebook demand continues to increase, access to legitimately free ebooks is decreasing. The reason is that the Big Six publishers are fucking stupid. If you want to borrow an ebook from one of the Big Six, your ability to get it from the library is down to almost zero.
Now, what happens when you take all the ereader and tablet and laptop users who have been behaving like good citizens by borrowing their ebooks from the library and you cut off their legal supply? They’re going to get their fixes from the Dark Side of the internet. Or from each other.
Information Storage in the Digital Age [infographic]
In the past 12 months, I’ve never bought fewer printed books – and I’ve never read so many books. I have switched to ebooks. My personal library is with me at all times, in my iPad and my iPhone (and in the cloud), allowing me to switch reading devices as conditions dictate. I also own a Kindle, I use it mostly during summer, to read in broad daylight: an iPad won’t work on a sunny cafe terrace.
I’m an ebook convert. Not by ideology (I love dead-tree books, and I enjoy giving those to friends and family), just pragmatism. Ebooks are great for impulse buying. Let’s say I read a story in a magazine and find the author particularly brilliant, or want to drill further down into the subject thanks to a pointer to nicely rated book, I cut and paste the reference in the Amazon Kindle store or in the Apple’s iBooks store and, one-click™ later, the book is mine. Most of the time, it’s much cheaper than the print version (especially in the case of imported books).
This post makes an interesting point.
If you have a portable ereader or an iPad or a smart phone or even a laptop, then each and every ebook you put on that device costs as much as the device.
There is no way to average out the cost of all your books when you drop your reader in the toilet. You don’t pay 3 cents to Amazon or Barnes & Noble each time you open a book. You pay $79 or $99 or $199 up front and it’s up to you to find the most cost-effective way to use the thing.
You can get print books and each one of those costs exactly what you pay for it, ten cents or two-hundred dollars. And you make decisions on how and where and to whom to lend or when to read those books. And each individual physical book has its own worth.
Sue Little of Jabberwocky in Newburyport, Massachusetts, one of New England’s longest-running indie bookstores agrees. “People who love books are feeling fiercely protective of their books and booksellers.” Her customers travel from farther away than ever, she adds, because they’re seeking that unique bookseller’s experience. “It’s like people wanting to pay farmer’s market prices not only because they want fresh produce, but because they want to keep local farmers in business. They see value in bookstores.”
On the other hand, Little has jumped into the e-reader market with both feet to stay afloat. Customers can now download e-books at her store or through her web site via a new IndieBound app. “If we can replace physical sales with sales of downloads, we’ll be fine,” she says.
Imagine buying a car that locks you into one brand of fuel. A new BMW, for example, that only runs on BMW gas. There are plenty of BMW gas stations around, even a few in your neighborhood, so convenience isn’t an issue. But if one of those other gas stations offers a discount, a membership program, or some other attractive marketing campaign, you can’t participate. You’re locked in with the BMW gas stations.
This could never happen, right? Consumers are too smart to buy into something like this. Or are they? After all, isn’t that exactly what’s happening in the ebook world? You buy a dedicated ebook reader like a Kindle or a NOOK and you’re locked in to that company’s content. Part of this problem has to do with ebook formats (e.g., EPUB or Mobipocket) while another part of it stems from publisher insistence on the use of digital rights management (DRM). Let’s look at these issues individually.
Who Loves eReaders? [infographic]
Popular e-Book Formats & Readers
Kindles also read .TXT and .Doc formats. Perhaps not super popular, but worth knowing.
And if you’re prepared to “tinker” with the Firmware? They’ll also read epubs. Granted not DRM protected epubs, but regular DRM free epubs? They work a charm.
[I’d also argue that the Kobo ecosystem being missing is strange, as I’m sure their marketshare is higher than that of Windows 7 / Phone.]
Some notes on the graphic I just posted (as a non-user of ereaders, I can’t speak to the accuracy of the graphic or the comments).
Popular e-Book Formats & Readers
As tablet sales surge and put downward pressure on dedicated e-reader ownership growth, publishers are pessimistic that tablets will provide readers with an enticing reading platform.
“The devices [tablet computers] are capable of so many more distracting things,” said James L. McQuivey, Ph.D., vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, who conducted the survey. “If you have an iPad and 15 minutes to kill, are you going to do something more cognitively difficult like reading, or something brain-dead simple like going on Facebook or watching a YouTube video?”
Still, crossover devices like the Kindle Fire – not quite a full-sized tablet like the iPad, but with functionality far beyond that of an e-ink reader – may be a boon to publishers. Kindle Fire owners read e-books on the device more than any other activity. A recent survey of 216 Kindle Fire owners by RBC Financial Group found that 71% list reading e-books as one of the two activities they do the most on the device. “Brose the Web” came in distant second at 39%.
Not a recent article (from 27 Nov 2011), but extremely illuminating regarding how Amazon does business in the ebook realm, especially in many English-speaking but non-U.S. locations.
But spare a thought for the rest of the world. Because the vast majority of your potential readers don’t live in the USA. And if you’re thinking, So what? Amazon is the world’s biggest book store and my book is available for 99c anywhere in the world, then think again.
Consider: The new Kindlefire is not, and for the foreseeable future will not be sold in the UK or Germany or France, despite those countries having Kindle sites. And a reminder here that the B&N nook is utterly useless outside the US as B&N do not download outside the US borders.
Two fantastic new ereaders, purpose built for ePub3, are in fact exclusively for the US market. The rest of the world is stuck with the old b&w Kindle.
But actually even that’s not true. Britain, France and Germany are stuck with the old b&w Kindle. The Kindle isn’t available anywhere else except by having it shipped over from the USA.
Last year was widely perceived to be a year of outrageous e-book growth, but some new research suggests otherwise. 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.
Near the end is an observation worth noting:
…And beyond those power-buying voracious readers, casual e-reading is at risk: As more people buy tablets, e-reading becomes just one option among many.