eReader odds + ends in the time of eInk Pearl

Lots happening in the world of eReaders. Let’s start with the new Kindle DX’s new eInk Pearl screen.

eInk Pearl just became a must-have for every eReader

The Kindle DX 2 screen might be just 40% better than the Kindle DX 1 and 25% better than the Kindle 2 – However, it’s impressive enough to become the new standard in eInk screens.

Kindle 3 and Nook 2 will be forced to incorporate it – including the two little tricks of having a Graphite case and using little specks to make contrast better. If they don’t they run the risk of becoming a distant second choice to whichever 6″ eReader does arrive with eInk Pearl.

It says something about how slowly eInk is evolving that we’re excited about 40% better screen contrast and graphite casing.

There are actually numerous eReader happenings – let’s check up on a few before we get back to posts about the Kindle DX 2 and its remarkable screen (very remarkable and not $379 remarkable at the same time).

Apparently Borders is still alive and is being christened a Kindle Store Killer

Just when you think we have a World without Borders we find out that they are launching an eBook store and bloggers are wondering whether they will unseat Amazon.  

The Answer is No.

Borders will go bankrupt trying to fund its ebook store initiative although not before some other new entrants can exploit it to get an ‘in’ into the eReader and eBooks market.

Here’s what GigaOm’s Kevin C. Tofel writes -

Will following in Amazon’s footsteps guarantee the same level of success for Borders, currently the number two brick-and-mortar bookseller in terms of overall sales?

The overall experience between the two is similar, but the new Borders application supports in-app shopping — a slight advantage over the Kindle software.

It’s a rather disappointing article – The title is just meant as link-bait and it doesn’t really put forward any solid reasons for Borders to win or even compete. In fact, the article sort of just randomly ends. Like a movie that’s part of a trilogy and decides to leave the plot for the later two movies.

Why Borders are almost certainly going to lose the eBooks War

Well, let’s see – They’re rather late to the party with Amazon, B&N, and Apple already well entrenched. They don’t have any strong eReader or reading device so they can’t really lock in readers (they’re partnered with Kobo which is already an also-ran in the eReader market). Their Financial Situation is precarious to the extreme and it’s hard to imagine how they can take the losses that will result from competing in eBooks and eReaders.

Borders stock is down from 22 in Jun 2007 to 1.4 now. Barnes & Noble are down from 40.62 to 12.94. Amazon are up from 68.58 to 109.14. Meanwhile, Apple are up from 120.50 to 258.67. Let’s say two of these companies are going to do very well in eBooks, 1 is going to survive, and 1 is going to lose out – Would you bet your money on Borders?

To make things worse you also have companies like Google jumping in. Their search engine is going to provide them way more traffic and customers than Borders can conjure up. Borders know this and that’s why they have a conservative 17% market share goal. There’s no way they can compete and this is just a weak attempt to survive.

Julie Sartain at Washington Post nails the eReader opportunity

She rightly points out that eReaders are a Worthy Business Investment and lists a few key things that make it such -

  1. eReaders are preferable to a computer screen. 
  2. eReaders are designed specifically for reading books and documents.
  3. eReaders are the right combination of low weight and large enough screen size.
  4. eReaders and eBooks are both relatively cheap. This is particularly true after the recent eReader price wars.
  5. Distributing documents and manuals via eReaders will soon become cheaper than printing them out.
  6. You can update materials on eReaders without having to re-print. Distribution is also very easy and quick.
  7. Everyone who has an eReader for work can read for fun. Everyone who reads for fun can use the eReader for work and school documents.

 There are also lots of other benefits that are non-business specific but factor in -

The real benefits of e-readers and tablet PCs are cost, convenience, a huge library–including out-of-print books and lots of free public domain books–easy distribution of your company’s data, and the incentive for everyone to read more.

A few companies are moving towards using iPads for business – However, Kindles are much cheaper and make a lot more sense. There’s this magical belief people have that iPads won’t be a distraction at work and quite frankly it’s nonsense. It’s even more ludicrous when considering school and college students. If you give people a device that is better for wasting time than working with time they are going to waste time.

James Patterson reaches 1 million eBooks

Apparently there was a big competition to see who would be the first author to reach 1 million eBooks sold and we were never told.

James Patterson claims to have done it. In case you were hoping he’d celebrate it by -

  1. Pricing his books at $9.99.  
  2. No longer having every single book written with a ‘second, helper author’.  
  3. Not ending every book at a cliffhanger and Not stretching series endlessly.

Well, you’ll be disappointed.

1 million ebooks is quite an accomplishment and you have to wonder why his ebooks are priced at $14.83 and $10.19 and $15.46. Guess it must be for the principle of it and to help other authors who need $14.99 prices to be able to afford to eat.

Kindle Store vs Kindle Hardware – Quick Thoughts on Building Multiple Billion Dollar Businesses

Amazon are doing a very good job of building up both the Kindle Store and the Kindle hardware business. For a good example of what it might mean down the line we should look at Microsoft and Xbox.

Bloomberg reports that Microsoft’s Xbox Live (just the online part of the service) generated more than $1.2 billion in sales in 2009 -

Microsoft says about half the service’s 25 million users paid an annual fee to play games online like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” in the year ended June 30. That would be about $600 million.

Sales of products like movie and TV show downloads topped subscription revenue for the first time.

First, that’s just Xbox Live. End of this year we’re going to get the cool but poorly named Kinect and Xbox hardware is going to sell extremely well. That really is the way to do it – to build up multiple billion dollar businesses and become a much stronger company.

This is exactly what Amazon is doing. Seattle-based companies might not know how to smooth-talk the Press – However, their ability to build up multiple billion dollar businesses is a very under-rated skill and infinitely more valuable.

Second, Amazon have got to be looking at the second part of the Xbox Live equation i.e. sales of movies and TV shows. All Amazon need is a Kindle Plus that allows watching movies and shows and listening to music – they have everything else in place.

Amazon are playing it so well and still flying under everyone’s radar – It’s crazy that the Press never talk about Zappos and Drugstore.com and Amazon Tote/Fresh and IMDB and The Cloud and Kindle and Kindle Store and 6pm.com and all the potential billion dollar businesses Amazon is building. Nah – they’d rather talk about some short-term focused little app company building apps on someone else’s platform.

Nook WiFi – Does anyone even remember?

Just got my Nook WiFi/ Nook Lite delivered today (courtesy a friend – it’s very much appreciated) and don’t know what to write about it.

It’s a study in contrasts. Was so involved in taking Kindle DX 2 videos that missed the World Cup – now have to wait 4 years for another semi-final (to be fair Germany played like England and Spain played like Spain so it wasn’t as much of a loss).

Meanwhile, writing about the Nook WiFi seems pointless -

  1. First, they insist you charge it fully before using it which meant it missed out on a supporting role in the Kindle DX videos. 
  2. Second, well …. it’s a Nook with WiFi. B&N should have put in at least 1 or 2 new features in it so we could at least pretend it’s a big deal.
  3. Third, the Kindle DX is much more exciting due to eInk Pearl. Perhaps if my valuation of reading was $25 then my joy at the Nook WiFi would make the Kindle DX disappear.

B&N just pick bad times to release products and bad times to talk about them. Apparently, they also pick the wrong designs – Not only do they have Alex/Spring Design suing them for stealing the Alex’s dual screen design for the Nook they also find out that Amazon have been granted a dual screen eReader patent that is closer to Nook than to the Kindle.

Nook WiFi looks just like a Nook. The screen has scary text telling you to charge it fully or dragons will eat you. It looks pretty. Waiting for it to charge fully so can try it out. They should fire the person who decided that the first-use user experience for the Nook WiFi will be plugging it into a wall-socket and waiting 6 hours for it to get charged.

6 Responses

  1. “Why Borders are almost certainly going to lose the eBooks War”

    Just to help. The above should read: “Why Borders IS almost certainly…..”

    “Borders” is one company. Borders IS. Borders is not plural.

  2. I continue to enjoy your blog and value your opinion but – a nickpick:

    You think that Amazon’s infrastructure (with Kindle 3 as the vending machine?) is poised to make a killing in the video business?

    I thought the iPAD, with its video and other distraction was an inferior reading device because of abilities such as this.

    You are almost certainly correct that Amazon will produce a pad-like do-more device. This will be critical for the education market as the ereader develops into a show-me book. Kindle’s ‘advantage’ of having few distractions may have to give way to a more pragmatic approach to reader design. I am absolutely certain that multipurpose pads will kindle (hee, hee) a revolution in the educational publishing market and once these machines have paper-like screens with battery life measured in days, even older, paper-loving readers will join the younger generation by carrying around one device that does it all.

    And yes, that includes delivering video to the KindleX.

    • Not the Kindle itself. Think of the Kindle as a precursor to a family of devices.

      It’s just what Amazon did with Amazon.com – first books, then electronics and CDs, then everything.

  3. WSJ.com – Borders Group’s Entry in E-Books May Herald Discounts
    WSJ.com – Borders Group’s Entry in E-Books May Herald Discounts the entrance of Borders into the e-book marketplace may mean lower prices on some titles. Although five of the six major book publishers have converted to an “agency” pricing model, setting their own retail prices, Bertelsmann AG’s Random House publishing group and many smaller publishers still employ the traditional wholesale model—meaning Borders could choose to discount some titles aggressively from these publishers in a bid to drive traffic to its website

  4. What war?

    They idea that there can be only one winner is just plain wrong. This is an emerging market and there are most certainly room for a lot of competitors.

    And competitors that are not trying to lock me in are very welcome indeed. Lock-in is the only reason I do not own a Kindle already.

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