Amazon Is Not All Of eBooks

Everyone fearing Amazon dominating eBooks again or being the “only” seller of eBooks needs the following reminders:

1) The population of iOS devices is a multiple of all eInk devices combined.

2) iOS devices are now the largest outlet for eBooks, not Amazon. That we have not seen Apple “dominate” eBooks is due to Agency pricing and the size and price of the current iPad. If Apple decides to release a smaller, less expensive iPad (or larger iPod Touch), it will become the “new Kindle.” The reason why the iPod Touch has not become that is because it’s much smaller than the 6″ eInk screen people have become accustomed to. The iPod Touch does not make people think “book.”

3) With Barnes & Noble having shown everyone that people will read on an LCD screen, it’s clear that the issue is the size and price of a device, not necessarily its screen. So we have gotten the Kindle Fire too. And the Kobo Vox. And within a few months, the Google Play tablet will appear.

4) Apple is not going to close its iBookstore, Google is not going to close its Google eBookstore, Kobo — which is owned by the giant corporation Rakuten — is not going to shut down, nor will Feedbooks or any others shut down. Even Agency pricing, which eliminated competition among eBookstores, did not lead to any eBookstores closing.

5) Will Amazon undercut everyone in price? Maybe. But for how long? See my previous point. Those eBookstores will not go away. Seriously, with all of their money, neither Google nor Apple will compete against Amazon on eBook prices? Where did you ever get that idea? And let’s say they decide not to compete on price. So what? Did everyone who was paying a higher price at the Sony Reader Store dump their Readers for Kindles? Sony is still in the eBook business even while that company has been bleeding hundreds of millions. And Rakuten will not shut Kobo. There are many other ways to compete: Such as having exclusives for books. See how many writers have chosen to give their books exclusively to Amazon. Who says Apple, Google, Kobo or anyone else can’t try wooing such writers?

6) Don’t have any sympathy for Barnes & Noble. That company had no sympathy for the smaller bookstores it put out of business. Now it might be Barnes & Noble’s turn to go away, as Borders did. Did anyone of you have any sympathy for Borders, by the way? Why not? Isn’t Barnes & Noble the “new Amazon” for print bookstores?

7) Do not weep for the Big Six. eBooks were inevitable and they refused to lead their own industry, so they’ve had everything imposed on them by tech companies. Well before there was an Amazon, Microsoft did eBooks. Microsoft was a larger threat than Amazon ever can be. Seeing Microsoft do eBooks should have galvanized the Big Six into an alliance to create eBook standards, not sit back and fear the future. If the Big Six go away, eBooks won’t. Writers matter, not those megacorporations. Ask Amanda Hocking if she needed them to make her millions! Ask any self-publishing writer who’s found an audience if they had that chance with the Big Six!

8) Kindle versus ePub does not matter. What matters is DRM. It’s not file format that prevents people from moving their books from, say, a Kindle to a Sony Reader. It’s DRM. Apple made DRM go away with music. DRM can also go away with eBooks. Should that happen, anyone can use the free Calibre software to shift file formats if they need to. And that will boil everything down to what matters: Writers. People buy the work of writers and they don’t care if it’s sold at Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. All of those are just outlets, not products.

9) We no longer exist in a world that is led by eBook hardware. See point one. The iPad and other tablets (including rooted eInk Nooks!) can now run apps from Amazon, from Kobo, from Barnes & Noble — and vendor-independent apps, such as Aldiko and Bluefire Reader. Wrap your head around the fact that eInk devices are now the minority device for eBooks and your perspective will immediately change, your horizons will broaden, and your fear will dissipate.

In short:

1) Do not fear Amazon

2) Do not weep for the Big Six

3) Only writers matter

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6 Comments

Filed under Digital Overthrow, eBooks: General

6 responses to “Amazon Is Not All Of eBooks

  1. MoriahJovan

    Good post. One thing, though, which may change the tenor of point 8: Apple did not make DRM on music go away. They made it possible to buy one track at a time, but it came encumbered with DRM. Amazon made music available without DRM.

    That said, I think you’re right about Kindle v ePub doesn’t matter.

    • mikecane

      Yes, as you reminded me on Twitter, it was AMAZON that forced Apple’s hand — the major labels used Amazon as a knife against Apple, never realizing they were playing into the hands of Jobs, who always hated DRM on music.

  2. I haven’t completely decided how important books as apps are going to be in the future, but I think this could be an additional argument. Future eInk (or other reflective screen technology) won’t be incompatible with full-color motion and interactivity, but unless I’m mistaken Amazon isn’t giving anyone the impression it owns the market for such apps. Quite the contrary.

    • mikecane

      App-books are a category by themselves that I’m not addressing. When you drag them in, you get down to OS compatibility.

  3. Pro Grammar

    > 1) The population of iOS devices is a multiple of all eInk devices combined.

    It does not matter if how many iOS devices there are if they are not used for reading. Far more books are read on eInk devices than iOS devices
    because eInk devices are made for reading. iOS devices are used for casual reading, not dedicated reading.

    > 2) iOS devices are now the largest outlet for eBooks, not Amazon.

    Amazon outsells all other ebook sellers combined. Here is a data point from J.A. Konrath:
    http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2010/09/konrath-ebooks-sales-top-100k.html

    The lower prices, better selection, and superb customer service mean that Amazon is a difficult contender to beat. That is part of the reason why Apple conspired with the big publishers to force its way into the ebook market.

    > 3) With Barnes & Noble having shown everyone that people will read on an LCD screen, it’s clear that the issue is the size and price of a device, not necessarily its screen.

    People will read on LCD screens, but they will also watch movies and surf the Web. The size and the price of the device matter, but so does the screen. There is a reason why Amazon and Barnes & Noble still offer eInk devices. Reading on an eInk device is a different experience than reading on LCD screens. The screen is easy on the eyes and the text is extremely crisp. You cannot multi-task with an eInk device like you can with a LCD device, but consumers know this when they purchase the device.

    > 3) Apple is not going to close its iBookstore, Google is not going to close its Google eBookstore, Kobo — which is owned by the giant corporation Rakuten — is not going to shut down, nor will Feedbooks or any others shut down. Even Agency pricing, which eliminated competition among eBookstores, did not lead to any eBookstores closing.

    Competition is good for the market and for the consumer. Agency pricing squashed some of that competition and raised ebook prices compared to the bar set by Amazon. With the on-going lawsuit, the future of Agency pricing is changing. It will be interesting to see where ebook pricing agreements go.

    > 4) Will Amazon undercut everyone in price? Maybe. But for how long?

    Amazon will undercut everyone in price. They would be doing it now were it not for Agency pricing. Apple has enough cash and devices in the market now to match Amazon’s prices, but they might not choose to chase Amazon given the small amount of sales that come from the iBookstore. As to how long, who knows. Amazon will do as they see best.

    > 5) Don’t have any sympathy for Barnes & Noble.

    Few do. It is admirable to see how well they have kept up in the ebook market, but they will probably have difficulty matching Amazon’s prices.

    > 6) Do not weep for the Big Six.

    Hardly anyone does. People are sympathetic for the Big Six the same way that they are for the RIAA and the MPAA–they see them as greedy, controlling big wigs who have out-lived their usefulness and now are fighting against the future business model where their presence is not required.

    > 7) Kindle versus ePub does not matter. What matters is DRM.

    Ah, but the Kindle and ePub formats are DRM-laden at the request of the publishers. Most consumers do not know how to remove DRM or convert between ebook formats. By requiring DRM because of their fears of piracy, the publishers have handed Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and other ebook sellers the keys to their “book vaults”. Every book bought by the average consumer ties them down tighter to the platform. Also of note is that Apple recently switched to their own proprietary version of ePub with custom extensions (http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/how-apple-is-sabotaging-an-open-standard-for-digital-books/4378).

    > 8) We no longer exist in a world that is led by eBook hardware.

    I disagree. The Kindle is one of Amazon’s top-selling products. The iPad is one of Apple’s top-selling products. Barnes & Noble needs the Nook to survive. The DRM-laden ebook formats associated with each eBook hardware platform is different, effectively locking the average consumer to that platform. While some platforms (Kindle and Nook) offer software readers for use with multiple types of hardware, the ebook hardware is the defining product for the platform. Until a truly interoperable ebook format comes along and the ebook hardware supports it, the ebook hardware will continue to lead.

  4. Good summation. Especially the point about DRM. If Apple can convince the publishers to ditch DRM, Amazon will have a battle like never before.

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