Google to sell ebooks, let publishers set hardcover prices

A really big new development in the Google Vs Amazon Book Wars. Motoko Rich of the NYTimes has written about how Google is planning on selling ebooks direct to consumers – 

In discussions with publishers at the annual BookExpo convention in New York over the weekend, Google signaled its intent to introduce a program that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google … it has now committed the company to going live with the project by the end of 2009.

In accordance with its Do No Evil philosophy Google will be good to publishers and let them set prices –

In early discussions, Google has said it will allow publishers to set consumer prices.

Google initially seem to be targeting a model where users can read books sold by Google on any device with Internet access.

For publishers, the big news is –

Mr. Turvey said that Google would probably allow publishers to charge consumers the same price for digital editions as they do for new hardcover versions. He said Google would reserve the right to adjust prices that it deemed “exorbitant.”

Is this related to the Book Settlement?

Not exactly – that is a settlement that would give Google the right to sell public domain books and, more importantly, to sell orphaned works. It would also give Google and Publishers the right to make money off of books whose rights holders could not be found.

The books that aren’t covered by the Book Settlement are new releases and books under copyright where copyright owners are known and are around to claim their rights. The new initiative by Google is to include digital editions of these books and sell them to customers.

Basically, Google is saying they want to be able to sell every book every written. Its also a pretty clear attempt at establishing a non-advertising driven revenue stream. Plus, if you think about it, getting the rights to orphaned works makes them content sellers (although they aren’t creating it themselves, just assuming rights for it).

My Thoughts

Allowing publishers to charge the same price for digital editions as they do for new hardcover books is just wrong.

Publishers want to move from a model where they get 50-55% of the price to a model where Google or Apple or Scribd give them 70-80% and yet they won’t pass on the savings to customers. Their own costs – printing, book returns, picking winners – all go down too. This is just greediness.

Amazon has done one exceptionally good thing by setting the $9.99 price for digital editions. Perhaps it will hold up in the face of all these new challenges.

Pixel Qi 3qi Hybrid Screen Pictures finally out

The 1st pictures of Pixel Qi’s 3qi screen are now out on Mary Lou Jepsen’s Blog. Depending on which page you read (blog or their website) the screens will be in ereaders and netbooks by Fall 2009, or End 2009. Here are the pictures –

PixelQi in Full Color Mode (backlight on), side by side with Pixel Qi Screen in ePaper mode (backlight off)

3Qi Screen from PixelQi in color and epaper modes
3Qi Screen from PixelQi in color and epaper modes

PixelQi ePaper Mode outdoors

The 3qi epaper screen outdoors
The 3qi epaper screen outdoors

Details on the 3qi screen

  1. Size is 10.1″ diagonal.  
  2. Screens will be available for netbooks and ereaders in late 2009.
  3. 3qi screens support video refresh and fully saturdated color.
  4. ePaper mode has 3 times resolution of fully saturated color mode to enable better readability.
  5. In 2009 PixelQi are focusing on being a run-in change into netbooks and ereaders which means the devices will not be optimized for these screens and benefits will not be fully felt.
  6. In 2010, PixelQi aim for full integration and to improve battery life by 5-fold.  
  7. They are pretty clear that they are not connected to EInk Corporation and do not use electrophoretic technology.
  8. The resolution in epaper mode is 205 dpi – better than the Kindle’s 167 dpi.

3qi screens in Acer Aspire Ones

Time got to play with some Acer netbooks that had the 3qi screens incorporated and loved the 3qi screens. Time is already proclaiming the technology the future of ereading.

A few snippets –

On these Acer prototypes, the 3Qi display managed to give an extra hour or so of battery life.

In black and white, reflective mode, I couldn’t see any difference when we held up the Kindle alongside the PQ-modded Netbook.

Probably the most important part –

Mary Lou said that a manufacturer could buy PQ’s technology today and have an e-reader that could render high-def text, on a full color page, and video, by the first quarter of next year. The screens are cheap to produce, too—well under $200, she said. Such a device ought to enjoy 40 hours or so of use as an e-reader, between charges.

What this means for Kindle and Amazon

The first thing to keep in mind is that Mary LJ herself is saying first quarter 2010 is when a manufacturer would be able to come out with a device that utilizes the 3qi screens well. Amazon is as well placed as any other manufacturer to use these screens for an ereader/netbook (if they choose to).

The second is that ‘well under $200’ is not good enough at this point. eInk screens cost around $60-$70. $100 more for a color screen with video? Perhaps.

Amazon basically has to choose between a few different strategies, two of which are –

  1. Incorporate 3qi into a color Kindle 3.  
  2. Wait for the ‘multiple years away’ color eInk screen. An exceptionally bad choice in my opinion.

PixelQi has thrust ereader technology into the future.

A PixelQi color ereader/netbook in early 2010 or an eInk color ereader sometime in 2011? Thats a really easy choice to make.

May Kindle Summary, interesting news

The really big news is Google starting open war with Amazon by starting to sell ebooks, not to mention telling publishers they can sell ebooks for the same price as hardcover books.

May was probably the single most eventful month in terms of ebooks and Kindle news ever. A lot of significant events –

In May the Kindle and we saw:

  1. Kindle DX anounced. People buying it despite no known kindle dx ship date (July 6th perhaps). 
  2. We find out that Kindle editions are 35% of sales for books that have a Kindle edition available.
  3. Pixel Qi introduce a screen that Time magazine calls the future of ereading. Its hard to disagree.
  4. Kindle Publishing for Blogs started.  
  5. Apple MediaPad rumors intensify. Early 2010 date proposed by Apple expert (whatever that means).
  6. KindleAir – We find out a developer is working on Kindle for your PC (and Amazon is almost certainly not involved).
  7. Plastic Logic Demo finally revealed. Looks great except for page turns slower than a lazy snail.
  8. We find out Sprint probably makes $2 per Kindle user, Amazon probably pays 12 cents per MB transferred.
  9. Kindle for iPhone app gets a new version.
  10. RandomHouse turn off TTS for 40 of their books.
  11. Kindle enter publishing, starts Amazon Encore with Cayla Kluver and her book Legacy as the first offering.
  12. We find out Kindle owners probably skew to an older demographic, news outlets keep claiming its a bad thing.
  13. Scribd start selling ebooks and giving Publishers 80%.
  14. Publishers continue their assault on the $9.99 ebook price. Kindle owners fight back by overwhelmingly choosing to buy $9.99 or cheaper books.
  15. Sony says they will have a larger Sony Reader out by end of the year. And that they will abstain from naming it Sony DX or PRS900, instead going with Bing.

Some other interesting kindle threads –

  1. New York Magazine point out that New York Times is being rather catty about the Kindle (blaming it for mispronouncing Obama, then for book piracy).  
  2. An interview with Lawrence Lessig (Professor of Law at Stanford) on ereaders covers some good points including this one –

    So we’ve got to find a way to make books relevant, so the Kindle makes it much easier to get access to this content. There’s actually a very interesting text reading facility built into the books so that you can listen to your book as you’re driving to work or as you’re riding on the train and so that’s making that form of expression accessible in the digital age, and I think that’s an important part of keeping it relevant.

    If we didn’t do that, then people would read fewer books, they would spend more time reading blogs or spend more time doing Twitter and things like that.

  3. Tina Brown sports a popped collar (instantly killing the style for rap stars and college kids alike) and bashes $9.99 digital books.
  4. Wired write about the color, touchscreen, kitchen safe, digital recipe reader, the Demy (retails at $300). If Amazon would allow 3rd party apps you could get an ERecipe app for $5 instead.

    Demy Digital Recipe Reader
    Demy Digital Recipe Reader
  5. Colorware will color your Kindle in whatever design you like for $199. They let you color the buttons, front, back, keys, cursor, and every other element of the kindle.