Two things have completely changed the ebook market in the past year in 2010:
- Apple entered the ebook market with iBooks
- Agency pricing comes into force
When Apple entered the book market, via the iPad in April, they didn’t make many impositions on publishers who wanted to sell books with them, only that they follow a single, particular rule: don’t sell your books cheaper anywhere else.
This didn’t mean that Apple was dictating price, but that they didn’t want to be undersold anywhere else. A publisher could set any price imaginable for their books, but Apple had to have the lowest price. This affected the book market in a few ways. Many ebookstores that were offering discounts and rewards programs (buy a book, get 10% in in-store credit) had to pull books from their shelves immediately or raise prices as the publishers started to raise prices. That led us to the second point: agency pricing.
Agency pricing in essence is the right of the publishers to set prices for their books.
While this may seem like a simple concept, before this Amazon put pressure on publishers to sell trade and hardcover books at its $9.99 price point. This resulted in prices that were very favorable to consumers, but publishers were not as happy. In the beginning of 2010, several publishing houses got together to put their own pressure back on Amazon, and to be allowed to set prices for their books. Prices of bestsellers were raised in most cases to $13-15.
Whether the price has been set by the publisher or by Amazon is now denoted on every Kindle book’s page when you go shopping on Amazon – it will indicate “the price was set by the publisher”:
The backlash has unfortunately punished many independent bookstores, but now it’s clearer to the user that the publisher is the one setting the price, not the bookseller.
Apple has come out with its competitor to the Kindle, iBooks on the iPad in April 2010, Sony released new readers in September 2010, and Amazon has released the 3rd version of the Kindle, and B&N’s Nook has generally underwhelmed audiences. More ebook readers are planned for future releases, though it seems not as many that were predicted before the launch of the iPad. The Skiff reader, proposed by Hearst is dead.
I’m an iPad owner myself, and I have several ebook applications downloaded and installed. Amazon’s Kindle app, B&N’s Nook, Kobo, and of course Stanza. I love Stanza as I’m able to bring over all my eReader format books and still access them, but I’m buying the majority of my new books in the Amazon Kindle format.
Though I’ve never been a Kindle fan, and doubt I will ever buy one, I am becoming a fan of Amazon’s Kindle ebook format.
Why? Here’s why:
This is the most important point, at least for me, and it’s what keeps me buying more ebooks in general. Amazon has been working hard to make sure you can access your books from wherever you are and has made a Kindle application available for many devices: your PC, Mac, Kindle, iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android, too. I have a strong feeling that whatever new tablets and devices come out, the Kindle format team will work hard to make sure you can read your books there, too.
iBooks is only available for the iPhone, iPad, and 3rd generation iPod Touch. That’s it. Sony lets you read ebooks on your Mac or PC as well as the Sony Reader.
- Selection & buying experience
Amazon has 670,000 Kindle books. And it has a popular recommendation system that I’ve never stopped using, even when I wasn’t buying books from Amazon. I would consistently check popular titles, recommendations and use the Amazon website as a reference for book information before buying in a bookstore or from another reseller. They’ve worked hard on their interaction with the reader and it’s still the best book and ebook research website in my opinion.
Amazon’s Kindle app has a 1-click experience that makes things really easy to buy books, and buy, and buy, and buy. One touch of a button from within the Kindle App on my iPad and I’m in the Kindle store on Safari, and another click later and I have bought a new book. When I close Safari and launch the Kindle app, it’s downloading automatically.
This has been a revolution for ebooks, in my opinion. Amazon and iBooks provide samples of ebooks for free. So you can download a few pages, or in some cases up to a few chapters of a book to see if you’re interested in it. At the end of the sample, there’s a convenient link to buy the book if you want.
On a recent trip to visit a friend whose reading taste is very similar to mine, I asked her what she’s been reading lately. We used to trade books, but with me living in another country, and reading mainly digital books, we’ve been reduced to exchanging emails with titles and suggestions. This visit I took that a step further and downloaded a dozen ebook samples directly to her iPad, so she would know exactly which books I recommended and could check them out before buying them.
The one suggestion I would make to Amazon is to update the buying experience to be within the book sample itself, and download the full version directly in the icon itself instead of a duplicate, full-version one, and making me delete the sample book, and lastly, that when I open the full version, have it open to the page where I stopped reading the sample.
This is not a point why I think Amazon is winning the ebook war, rather I think it’s the big elephant in the room that no one is talking about. DRM still exists on almost every book sold commercially today, and does not appear to be going anywhere in the near term.
Who are you buying ebooks from?
Image by jblyberg