The E-book Opportunity
The dual-screen Kno e-reader was developed to make e-textbooks more conducive to learning.
Amazon's upgraded Kindle app includes new audio and video functionality.
Barnes & Noble, by contrast, recently adopted a "Nook-centric" branding strategy. Apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices now all carry the Nook name, as will NookStudy, Barnes & Noble's new online study platform for the education market.
"We felt the Nook brand had resonated so beautifully with customers coming into the store, and we feel people understand that Nook is Barnes & Noble," says Douglas Gottlieb, vice president of digital products for Barnes & Noble.com. "We want to be completely interoperable .... [and] having one e-book brand under the Barnes & Noble umbrella kind of simplified that message for us. Nook has done so well and people are so conscious of the book device, we really wanted to leverage that halo of the Nook device and simplify it for customers."
In addition to building out a strong online presence, Borders hopes to position itself as the expert on all things digital with "Area-e" sections, in-store boutiques (set to launch this fall) staffed by associates trained to help consumers with e-book devices and accessories. The company's e-book store, launched in July in conjunction with Kobo, is proving a "strong traffic driver to Borders.com," Edwards says.
Ned May, vice president and lead analyst at media research and advisory firm Outsell, says centering e-book brands around a device is really about selling books, not hardware.
"It provides a locked and secure channel," he says. "Once you get someone to use your device … then hopefully they will keep coming back to you for the sales. Most are deploying iPhone apps and PC apps and tablet apps around that same device, so you can ... migrate content seamlessly across [platforms]."
Even Sony, May says, realized it needed to build a robust, dedicated e-book store, coming to an agreement last year to offer half a million public domain books through Google. Not surprisingly, it is hardware-focused Sony that has proven most willing to embrace a platform-independent, free content model to boost the number of titles available through its e-book store.