eBooks Compared to Cost of Print Publishing

Nook Color ereader

Nook Color ebook ereader now supports Android Apps

As the print industry continues on an inexorable path to extinction, an analysis by the Wall Street Journal reinforces what many of us already knew. Specifically, ebooks are just less expensive to publish.

First off, I’m not a book hater. Actually, quite the opposite. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with print. I spent many years in print publishing. Now that I’ve started writing books, I’m hoping that print sticks around just a bit longer.

Unfortunately, that’s just not going to happen.

The Internet has has led to fewer people buying and reading books. That much we know.

Yet it took the combined impact of the Amazon Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad to make ebooks truly viable. These are devices that offer the features ebook readers want at the right price. Continue reading

BN vs Amazon for What’s Left of Books

As Borders closes, their discounts on books increase.

Books are dying. Actually, if you believe the pundits, almost all of print is dying.

As someone who used to work in print publishing, I see many friends looking for new jobs. So, yeah, I tend to agree with the pundits on this one. Books are dying, and I am not happy about it.

As Borders closes the book on their business as booksellers, you can’t help but wonder what’s next for the entire publishing business. As an author of four books (and a fifth one coming!), I am more than just a little concerned about the untimely but not entirely surprising demise of this significant retailer. Continue reading

Nook Upgraded & the 5 P’s of Marketing

Nook Color ereader

Nook Color ebook ereader now supports Android Apps

And just like that, the Nook matters again. Yes, in the war to win the hearts and eyeballs of readers continues to rage on, and Barnes & Nobles has just proved that it’s not out of the fight.

In 30 seconds or less, the Nook was upgraded from being a humble ebook reader with an attractive color screen, a market where Amazon dominates. A software patch pushed the Nook into the crowded space of tablets, where Apple dominates.

Soon the Nook will have full access to the Android Marketplace, which includes the kinds of games and apps that makes the iPad so popular.

Here are five reasons why this matters to you as it relates to the Five P’s of Marketing (loosely interpreted, of course):

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place (distribution)
  • Promotion
  • People

1.PRICE: Nook competes on price and features. Everyone from the media to the average buyer is enamored with tablets. The venerable iPad 2 is one of the most coveted gadgets on the marketplace, but with prices starting at $499, it’s not exactly within reach of all buyers. For a while, the Amazon Kindle was the device to beat, but it’s still a black and white technology in a color world. At $250, the Nook offers a sharp, full color display. It may not be as full featured or sensitive as the iPad, but it suddenly feels light years ahead of the Kindle, but with a very attractive price point. Continue reading

Free Kindle? A Matter of Time

Free Kindle OfferWow, that was fast. Just a few short years ago, the Amazon Kindle ereader was a red-hot gadget that claimed a premium price. At launch in 2007, the Kindle was priced at $399. And, get this, the original Kindle sold out within just 5.5 hours. (Don’t worry, they made more.)

Soon after, the Kindle 2 released. Somehow, through the magic of Moore’s Law, the price dropped to $299. Still not cheap, but dramatically less expensive than the original. As of this writing, you can get a brand new Kindle for just $139.

But wait, there’s more. I’ll be a panelist at the upcoming DTC National Conference in Boston. And I noticed that there’s a crazy promo. Register for the DTC event, and they give you the conference materials on a Kindle. And you get to keep the Kindle.

From $399 to free.

Amazon’s sales of ebooks are skyrocketing. According to Amazon, ebooks already outsell paperback books. No surprise there. So it makes sense to keep dropping the price on the Kindle. Heck, Amazon can give the ereader away for free and (probably) still profit on the ebook sales.

How long before this pushes down the prices of competing ereaders? Something tells me that the Barnes & Noble Nook will probably be considering a price cut. The Apple iPad? Probably not just yet.

Last year, I predicted “5 Reasons You’ll Be Using an EReader in 2 Years.” Um, I’d like to revise that now to “1.5 years.”

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B&N & Traditional Publishing Strike Back

As the Amazon juggernaut continues to steamroll over the retail world, it’s hard to imagine how traditional brick and mortar stores can compete. It’s especially dire in the print world where traditional bookstores are closing constantly.

The Kindle and iPad ereaders have become amazingly efficient resources for consuming media.

While things may seem dark, there’s still a glimmer of hope out there. Barnes & Nobles seems to be getting smarter and competing harder. I like this, I really do. (Although I must admit, I am a little underwhelmed by the Nook.)

B&N in Paramus, NJ

Tonight at the Barnes & Nobles in Paramus, NJ, they were hosting a celebrity signing event featuring Alton Brown, who was promoting his book Good Eats 2: The Middle Years. The parking lot was mobbed, as people were trying to get into the store. Just for reference, today is a Tuesday in October. It’s not a day typically associated with crazed shoppers.

For all that they can do (and they can do a LOT), Amazon really can’t match this kind of retail-location event hoopla. Think of it. People got up, left their desktop computers, and trekked over to a store. That’s motivation and calls to action. That’s real action, not just clicking a link.

There are other bookstores, including the Bookends store in Ridgewood, NJ that has been surviving on celebrity appearances. Recent book celebs have included Vince Neil of Motley Crue, Marlo Thomas, Lance Armstrong, Ozzy, and Al Gore to name a few. You’ll notice in both stores the big marquee names are celebrities and other famous people. That’s okay because those kinds of books have always fueled the book industry. Both stores also include “real” authors, at least how mainstream fiction readers would define a real author. It’s a nice marketing mix that sells product.

I don’t want to see retail whither and die. There’s still something nice about being able to go to a real, physical store and discovering something new and interesting. It’s useful to be able to make an actual purchase and not wait for delivery. And if you go to a bookstore, you can meet the author and get your book signed. Take that, Kindle!

And because I am a published author, I like the idea of real bookstores selling real books. It’s good for the book ecosystem and for my royalty checks. Speaking of, my royalty checks have gotten smaller. Would it kill you to buy one of my books?

For Sale: Print

Marvel Comics on iPad

I have seen the future…and I am selling all of my books.

Okay, not all of them, but an awful lot of them. Books, comic books, magazines, and just about everything print. Y’see, I’ve had an Amazon Kindle 2 for over a year now. And don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing little machine.

But then I saw the iPad, and it changed the way I thought about books, particularly comic books.

Tablets have been around for quite a while. In fact, at work, we run tablet PCs with Microsoft Windows. It’s a nice technology, but for whatever reason, it just didn’t lend itself to reading full novels. Even comics were a little awkward, since you had to use a little stylus to turn the pages of a digital comic.

Apple’s iPad interface is amazing. It’s intuitive, pleasant, and fades quickly into the background. Admittedly, it’s not quite as good as the Kindle when it comes to reading plain text books. But it’s terrific for reading comics. And if they get that screen just a tiny bit larger on the next version — without increasing the total size of the device — it’ll be about a darn near perfect comic book reading experience.

Lots of comic book friends think this is just crazy, but I happen to think that it’s the way I’ll be consuming comics in the future. Sure, part of the comic book hobby is bagging, boarding, and saving your comics. But if you think about it, that’s just a tradition rooted in print and distribution.

Back in the early days, comic books were distributed on the news stand. If you wanted comics when you were a kid, you went to the nearest news stand, pharmacy, or convenience store and got your issues. The problem was that there were very few comic book stores, so it was difficult, and often very expensive, to find back issues of comic books. Scarcity increases price, so that’s the short version of why some old comics are expensive. More people want them than there are comics to buy, and suddenly, people are paying a million dollars for a single issue of Superman.

Because of this relative scarcity of back issues — and the fact that some comic book stories are one long serialized saga — people learned to buy and collect comics. A supporting industry sprung up that supplies bags, boards, boxes, and just about ever variation in between. Multiply that by a few decades of my personal collecting fervor, and I have a room that’s seemingly overrun with white boxes.

As I stare at the iPad, I wonder how many comics will fit on this device? Better yet, how many will fit on my Mac, which I can transfer over to an iPad or whatever device? How many boxes can I possibly clear out of my collection, and how much of my man cave will I be able to reclaim?

One by one, I have been getting rid of my regular books. I’ve donated them to book sales, shared them with friends, and have basically just purged many of my bookshelves. There are still keepers, but the vast majority have found a second life somewhere else.

High quality digital content is easier than ever to find. You can even do it legally through Amazon and Apple, which means that you’re not stealing from the pockets of your favorite writers or artists. The only thing that is changing is the distribution channel, and bookstores, comic stores, and newsstands are scrambling to adapt to this new profit model. Some will survive, but many will not.

In the meantime, I’m trying to figure out what to do with my comic book collection. It’ll be a few years before everything in my current collection is ready in the digital format. It’ll start with the mainstream publishers like Marvel and DC Comics, but it will move quickly to independent publishers. I’m a traditionalist, so if publishers offer comics on DVDs with large runs of back issues, I’ll be buying those disks. They are so compact that it’s easy enough to store huge collections.

The way content — including ebooks — is popping into the Apple iTunes store, I think the future is happening sooner rather than later. And that’s just fine by me.

In the meantime, does anyone want to buy some classic comics? Cheap.

Another eReader Convert

Another day, another ereader convert.

Yup, another co-worker came to the office today to show off his Kindle. He admitted that my relentless raving for the Kindle pushed him over the edge. That, and he ran the numbers, and realized that he’s actually going to spend less on his reading materials. He’s a heavy reader of new non-fiction books, so the cost of shipping alone from Amazon and BN.com was apparently adding up.

He loves the Kindle and was showing it around the room. His favorite feature? His back no longer aches from lugging around books. Nice.

The falling cost of ebook readers is increasing the amount of content that you can get electronically. The improved capabilities coming from the Nook, Kindle, and the Apple iPad are inspiring content creators and even marketers to look at new ways to distribute content electronically. It’s a beautiful circle of ever-increasing growth for electronic publishing. It’s a lot like the early incarnations of websites in the 1990s, except on an accelerated timeline.

Like the early Internet — heck, like anything early in the development stage — the ebook and ereader market is going to experience explosive growth in many different directions. Some of them will be logical, especially in hindsight. Some directions will be surprising, and perhaps even illogical. Other directions will fizzle and be left to Net history and Wikipedia entries.

People jump on new technology like it’s supposed to be fully de-bugged and realized in the first or even second release. It’s never been that way. Consider the first cars or telephones or televisions or even the first computers. These devices evolved naturally, as engineers and users determined was features were valuable and which were unnecessary. It’ll be the same way with ereaders and ebooks. You can wait it out or you can jump in and be part of the virtual team that de-bugs and priortizes our future technology.

Today, one of my co-workers joined the revolution. One day, we’ll laugh about how primitive the Kindle is compared to our more advanced devices.

Nook – Now for Games

Nook with Chess

With all the buzz on the Apple iPad (for good reason) and the inevitable comparisons to Amazon’s Kindle, it’s easy to overlook the poor Nook.

Barnes & Nobles released the Nook amongst much fanfare, but failed to deliver enough units for the holiday season. It was a shame, really, when you consider that the Nook would have made an awesome last-minute gift.

Amazon may have won the hearts and wallets of online shoppers, but there are still lots of folks who like the traditional shopping experience. That’s the advantage that Barnes & Nobles will need to exploit more aggressively to differentiate themselves from the Kindle.

Just today, BN.com announced that the Nook now allows you to play some basic games like chess and Sudoku. Not to pick on the poor Nook because it is a dandy device. But chess and Sudoku in glorious black and white? Seriously? Is that your response to the iPad? What’s next? Pong?

Barnes & Nobles seems strangely intent on battling Apple on their turf (cool games) and Amazon on their turf (download ebooks). I’m no expert on bookselling, but I would imagine that they should be pounding the competition in places where they dominate — brick and mortar stores.

Barnes & Nobles is winning the real estate war. They claim to have 775 retail locations in the US and 636 bookstore locations. Sure, Apple has a handful of stores, but you’ll find that there are far more B&N locations. Amazon is strictly online.

Since it’s one of my favorite stores, I hope that Barnes and Nobles gets serious about making the next version of the Nook a serious mobile ereader with all the appropriate and logical features. And to do that, they need to exploit their unique value and killer app…their stores.

5 Reasons You’ll Be Using an EReader in 2 Years

sony-reader-prs505-b

Sony Reader PRS-505

Do you look at ereaders and ebooks and wonder “what’s the big deal?” Then you’re probably like a lot of people who understand the technology, but figure that printed books, laptops, and iPhones are good enough.

Yeah, hate to break it to you, but in about two years, you’ll be using an ereader. It won’t look like today’s Kindle or Nook, but it won’t be that different either. Ereaders are an inevitable next-step technology.

The W+P=W Top 5 Reasons You Will Be Using an EReader in Two Years

1. Prices will drop.
Paying $200 for a device like a Sony eReader when you can read a book for free? Crazy, right? Well, not so fast. Is the book you’re reading actually free or did someone pay for it already? That’s right, someone paid for the media, even if it’s in a public library. As for the device, let’s not judge future prices by today’s prices. If that were the case, nobody could afford a plasma or LCD television in their home. Early home entertainment systems are always expensive, until manufacturers can figure out a way to drive down costs.

Today’s ereaders are relatively cheap for new technology. Expect cheaper prices, starting this year. In two years, they’ll be selling them at garage sales. Tech always starts high and comes down.

2. eBook exclusives.
Why read a digitial book when a perfectly good print version is there on the shelf? Well, just wait until the book you really, really want to read is only available in ebook format. Or the book that you have to read for work or school. Yeah, it’s going to happen, and sooner than you want it to. As you may know, I have published comics in the past. Nothing big, but I did enough to realize that more than 50% of my costs were going to printing and shipping. It’s the same for mainstream publishers as well.

Soon, publishers will release certain books only in digital formats. It’s probably going to start with textbooks, since there are 37 million kids in US schools alone. And they don’t get to choose what they read, right?

3. Free channels will fade.
When was the last time you went to a music store to buy new music? Yeah, same here. If you have an iPod, you’ve probably used Apple’s iTunes store. I love the Amazon store for new music. Every other strip mall in America used to have a record shop. Not anymore.

Now, with bookstores fading into the sunset, you’re going to be forced to do some shopping online. But print books, still need to be shipped. If you buy from Amazon, that price is fixed at $3.99 (before free shipping incentives). And the costs of shipping keep going up, up, up. One day, the cost of shipping a book will be prohibitively high. So high, that it will not make sense to buy a print book over the Net. Meanwhile, the delivery cost of an ebook will tend to remain fairly constant at $0.

Oh, and one more thing about “channels.” You know, when I was a young one, nobody could imagine paying for television. People scoffed at the idea of paying for cable TV, especially when you could just pull up the antenna and get reception. And yet, now paying for cable television is just another bill. In the future an ebook reader will be another device that you keep around the house for your basic reading needs.

4. Picture better pictures.
Right now, the graphics on Kindle are perfect for text. Pictures? Nah-so-good. The images are barely passable and sometimes downright unreadable. Lame.

In fact, the ebook reader of tomorrow probably looks a lot like your laptop of today. Except the ereader of the future will almost certainly have a touch display. Better pictures, movie watching, and web browsing will all eventually be included in high-end ereaders. Asus today announced the DR-570, a color ereader. Brilliant color pictures and 122 hours of battery life, at least that’s what they are claiming.

5. Content creators will want ereaders.
You may not pay for content, including pictures, words, and videos. Radio is free. Television is free (even though you pay for the wire into your house). But someone, somewhere is paying for it. Writers and editors and production people all need to get paid.

So the people who actually create content, like publishers, and the people who pay them (the advertisers) are already lining up behind new technology. Content creators will push hard for ereaders, especially since it will give them a new way to aggregate their content. Yes, piracy will run rampant, but enough people are willing to pay for good content that it will drive down the cost of the devices.

More importantly, content creators will gain access to incredibly detailed statistical reports. Old media is saddled with old-style reporting. New media advertisers want details about user behavior. eReaders will bridge that gap and make the medium instantly useful and credible in the eyes of advertisers. They will bring their dollars to this new medium, making it possible for content publishers to pay the people who create the content.

So, yeah, those are my Top 5 reasons why you’ll be reading from an ebook reader in under two years. There are probably more, but I’ve got a hot date with my Kindle and my favorite blogs. (Yes, I read blogs on my Kindle.)

Caution: Your Kindle May Break

Kindle2-crackedAs of this holiday season, there are a LOT more Kindles out there. Amazon claims that the Kindle was the best selling item in their store. Ever. Some experts put Barnes & Nobles Nook sales at over 500,000 units in 2010.

And guess what? Some of them are going to break.

Yup, it’s a statistical certainty. Even if only 1% of all Kindles break, there’s a lot more of them out there to be broken.

If you check out some of the articles out there, people are already suing Amazon for the Kindle design. As a consumer, you should have a reasonable expectation that an expensive piece of technology has been tested and improved, right?

Well, not so fast. We’re talking about a product that’s been in the wild for under two years. That’s plenty of time to get market feedback, but not really enough to make significant hardware changes to improve the product.

And that’s the trouble with being an early adopter of new technology. YOU are the beta tester.

It’s cool to have a new toy. People want to see it and you get to be a geek superstar. But that comes at a price. Even early iPods broke or had lousy battery life.

Consider Toyota. Toyota worked hard to build their image of reliability, but they did it over many, many years. It didn’t happen in the first year of production.

Don’t be surprised that your basic laptop is more reliable than, say, your Kindle or Nook. Engineers have had years to make these devices more durable. And just because it fits in your backpack doesn’t mean that it will survive the abuse. The outer bezel on the Kindle is nearly flush with the screen, so that 7-inch e-ink display is pretty vulnerable to cracking. (There’s even a discussion on the cracked Kindle display on Amazon.)

Personally, I keep my Kindle in a thick, zip-lock pouch. It’s not  a traditional ebook pouch. I bought mine at an Army Navy supply store. It protects the Kindle from water. Plus it’s so ugly that nobody even looks twice at it.

So, if you got a Kindle or Nook ereader for this holiday season, congratulations. You got a cool, cutting-edge device that will give you many hours of pleasure.

Until it breaks.

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