Recently Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder, announced that Kindle ebooks sales had surpassed hardcover sales for the world’s largest bookseller. He said for every 100 hardcover books sold, approximately 143 Kindle ebooks have sold during a three month period and 180 Kindle ebooks last month alone. He also said Amazon has sold three times as many Kindles in the first half of this year than for that of 2009. Some people doubt the accuracy of these numbers but it’s hard to doubt ebook sales are taking off much faster than paper sales.
We also hear that the iPad is selling by the hundreds of thousands. Steve Jobs certainly has a winner with Apple fans as the iPad is capable of doing many things. Web-browsing, email, watching movies, playing games and other activities make the iPad the popular choice for people who want to do much more than read.
Barnes & Noble has recently cut the price of its WiFi only Nook to $149 and the WiFi plus 3G Nook to $199. These numbers are lower than Amazon’s Kindle at $189 and Kindle DX for $379. Barnes & Noble appear to be taking aggressive actions now that they’ve fully entered this battle (a bit late in my opinion). They still are the largest brick and mortar bookseller and may have finally realized their chance for survival could depend on successfully selling ebooks by the boatload.
Additionally, Sony has the Reader, Borders has the Kobo, Google Editions looms on the horizon and many other devices including one coming out from Sharp are in contention here to sell ebooks. So with all these sellers and products in a crowded marketplace, is there room for everyone?
I doubt it. But at least a few things are clear:
1. No one can stop Apple. Because the iPad does so much more than just read books and because they have a large and loyal fan-base, that product is a shoo-in for the future. Some of my questions for the iPad is whether Indie authors will do better by selling ebooks through their iBookstore or by creating an App.
2. Amazon has been doing more of this longer than anyone. The Kindle is still the most preferred device among customers who strictly want to read. One interesting thing I see with the Kindle is its .mobi format, which is basically unique to Amazon and not compatible with the vast majority of other devices. But since Bezos is committed to lowering prices of ebooks as well and Amazon’s financial success isn’t limited to just selling ebooks, it appears that Amazon will be around for the duration.
3. Barnes & Noble stands to lose the most as it absolutely must do well in this ebook battle. Because they didn’t take the bull by the horns I’m wondering if that delay may cost them. Those gigantic physical stores must be incredibly expensive to run, and all B&N does is sell books. Perhaps they’ll find a way to stay afloat but it will probably mean making the Nook incredibly awesome and selling ebooks for as cheap as possible. To me, this situation seems the most dire and interesting to watch.
4. As for the rest of them, there may or may not be room for a dozen other sellers and devices. Google Editions will certainly be a hit because… well, because they’re Google and they’ve already got gillions of dollars. For the others it will probably come down to who can make the best device that sells for the least amount of money. We saw Sony lose a battle with Betamax versus VHS many years ago, but we also know that Macintosh can thrive in the midst of the PC. The possibilities for mergers/acquisitions also looms large here, so who might team up? Google and Barnes & Noble perhaps? Seems like a possible pairing.
5. The only absolute certainty… it’s never been a better time to be a writer, Indie author or a self-publisher. Of course the odds are against success, but with persistence and a good product the chances improve dramatically now that there are so many means of making a writing career into a reality.
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