Content Strategy and eBooks

Marvel Comics on iPad

The easiest thing to do is wait. When a new technology seems to be bubbling up at the edges of conversation, most people just wait. Wait to see how it turns out. See if it takes off.

When it comes to ebooks, the wait is over. Done. The handwriting is no longer on the wall; it’s being downloaded to your iPad.

Old Models, Redefined
The book business is faring much better than the music industry did when digital changed their business model. As millions of songs were being downloaded in the 90s, music companies were busy protecting their old-media distribution channels. At one time, music stores dotted strip malls and city street. Now, most are gone. Apple redefined their distribution model.

The next to be hit was the video business. Torrents made pirating easy. And since people already had home-entertainment centers, the devices of consumption were already in place. The studios were also slow to move, sticking with DVDs for too long. NetFlix was already busy redefining their distribution model. Continue reading

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.”

Additional posts:

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?

iPad for Student Health

The more I use this iPad, the more I am convinced that it is the logical and necessary next step for students. It may not be the Apple brand iPad, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that students will benefit on many levels from these ereaders.

We’re in the back-to-school mode, which means the inevitable articles about backpacks being too heavy. There’s this one about a kid who’s carrying a backpack that’s 27% of her body weight. Or this one that weighs out how much each item in a student’s backpack weighs.

Schools and textbooks are as necessary as they have always been, but the way we transport them is beginning to evolve. Even as I get my kids ready for school, I can see that they have too much to transport.

Here are a few things necessary to make ereaders viable for kids:

  • Tough devices – Kids are not going to take good care of ereaders, particularly since they represent school and other “not fun” stuff. The device needs to be nearly indestructible. Even if it bulks up the device, a durable rubberized coating is probably necessary. Maybe the people who design the Panasonic ToughBook can help with a school-grade device.
  • Controlled web access – As it is, parents have a tough enough time monitoring what their kids see on the Internet. A device like this would need to have parental and school control built right in, so that kids aren’t surfing inappropriate content when nobody is looking.

There are many, many reasons why we should be having serious discussions about ereaders for students. But it’s almost that time, and I have to get my kids off to school. And we’re renting a forklift to get their backpacks into the car.

Additional reading:

iPad – Week 1

Apple iPad

Apple iPad

It’s been a week, and I do believe I am in love. Well, at least serious infatuation.

One week with the Apple iPad, and I’m wondering two things:

  1. How did I live without the iPad before this?
  2. Why is free WiFi still so hard to find?

Here’s what I love about the new iPad:

What I don’t love:

  • Screen that seems to pick up a little too many fingerprints
  • Shiny display that is difficult to read outside on a nice day
  • Bit too heavy and wide
  • Apps that still haven’t been reprogrammed from the iPhone to the iPad

The Amazon Kindle still holds a place in my backpack, just based on super-light portability. But the iPad sure does offer a lot more function and fun.

And this is just the first week. Not bad, Apple. Very impressed.

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.