The E-book Opportunity
Two-thousand ten may be remembered as the year of the iPad, but if the recent buzz around e-readers is any indication, a rising content-delivery-device tide truly does lift all boats. The release of a clutch of new devices, including Barnes & Noble's Nook (released in late 2009), Spring Design's Alex and Borders' Kobo, helped spawn summer price wars, pushing the price of the market-leading Kindle and Nook below $200 for the first time. With predictions that this lower price point may be the spark needed to make e-readers this year's hot holiday gift item, the little devices seem poised to go from niche curio to major player in the electronics market.
Less certain is the course book publishers should take on this new ocean of e-ink. Opinions range from wait-and-see (as counseled by guest columnist Rudy Shur, founder and publisher of Square One Publishers, to independent publishers in the May/June issue of Book Business), to cautious acceptance (the majority position, as publishers slowly move away from "windowing," or delaying the release of e-books, to a simultaneous release of new best-sellers in both print and electronic formats), to enthusiastic embrace ("enriched" or "amplified" e-books developed for the iPad). All point to the same numbers to justify their position: e-book revenue in the hundreds of millions and growing steadily, yet still only comprising a small percentage of the $80 billion book market.
E-readers Come Into Their Own
Helping to power the growth of the market is the effort by several major retailers to position e-book sales and marketing around an e-reader device. Following Amazon's lead, both Barnes & Noble and Borders have sought to breathe new life into their business models through branded devices and associated apps, positioning themselves as a convenient, cross-platform e-books provider.
With the Kobo, Borders sees itself as extending its multiformat bookselling strategy into a rapidly growing market. "The Kobo eReader is one of many e-reading devices we are carrying as part of our device-neutral strategy," says Borders' CEO Mike Edwards. "The Sony Readers and Aluratek's Libre eBook Reader Pro round out our current assortment, and we'll add additional devices to our assortment soon. Overall, we will emerge with a 'good, better, best' selection of e-readers at affordable price points, making it easy for our customers to enjoy books digitally."