Big Changes in the EBook Market

kindle It is no secret that I am a big eReader fan. I’ve talked about it here and here. And from the very beginning I have been a loyal customer of Amazon. With the introduction of the Kindle, I knew I wanted one but waited until 2009. The Kindle Two had just been introduced, giving me the security of a second generation device, plus the slight decrease in price from $399.00 to $359.00 helped.

Fast forward almost three years later. Amazon now has plans for multiple models. Last month Amazon announced a new lineup of Kindles from your basic model to the Kindle Fire, the one that is supposed to give iPad a run for its money. If the figures quoted in this BGR article are correct, Amazon’s first tablet, sold 95,000 units on the first day of pre-sales. A purported leak later suggested that Amazon was taking an average of 50,000 pre-orders each day. However, it is the most inexpensive Kindle, priced right under $100.00, that has many people talking.

Per Forbes, the low price Kindles are the ones that are going to revolutionize eBooks since the price lends itself to impulse buys and gift giving. The eBook market should explode, not that it hasn’t been growing at a rapid pace already. And Amazon is in the perfect position to take advantage of this because Amazon is in the hardware business to sell books, and Apple is in the business to sell hardware. In May, Amazon announced that it selling more eBooks than paperback or hardback. And that trend can only flourish.

Amazon is making sure that it does with their new publishing unit run by publishing expert Laurence Kirshbaum with imprints like AmazonEncore, AmazonCrossing (publisher of the highly successful Hangman’s Daughter), Montlake Romance, ( with Connie Brockway being the launch author) Thomas & Mercer, (with thriller author, Barry Eisler) and Powered by Amazon. One hundred and twenty-two books are due out this fall. Amazon has also inked a deal with the self-help author Tim Ferriss and actress and director Penny Marshall. But that is not all.

Amazon has started giving all authors, whether it publishes them or not, direct access to highly coveted Nielsen BookScan sales data, which records how many physical books they are selling in individual markets like Milwaukee or New Orleans. And guess what? Right after this Simon & Schuster, Random House, and the Hachette Book Group announced that they would be setting up their own portal allowing authors to access this data.

In this ICv2 article, the author discusses how “Amazon was able to use its distribution muscle to gain a 4-month window of exclusivity for digital editions of DC Comics’ bestselling graphic novels including Watchmen,” This didn’t make Barnes and Noble happy and created a backlash, causing them to pull DC’s graphic novels off their shelves (see “B&N to DC—It’sOn” and “Books-a-Million Joins DC Boycott”).’

Amazon doesn’t have the apps like Apple, but they also have been courting magazine publishers and they are embracing the Fire and Amazon. With Conde Nast on board, more magazines should follow, with approximately 300 available. One reason is that Amazon is willing to share more customer details than Apple. As explained in the Good E-Reader article, since Apple doesn’t give magazine metrics and statics on customers, their advertisers have no demographics, which is not making them happy. Publishers speaking off the record, have been very pleased with their dealings with Amazon. Are you seeing a pattern here? And we haven’t even discussed how Amazon is positioned as a competitor against Netflix. It wasn’t a good time for them to lose 800,000 customers.

So far I am all good with these changes since I am the beneficiary of low cost readers, and original works. As more readers hit the market, authors benefit too, since they can digitalize their backlist as talked about in this Forbes’ article. Amazon and growing companies like Backlist eBooks are giving readers the opportunity to find out of print books at extremely inexpensive prices. If you haven’t checked out the EBook Bargains thread on the potpourri board, then you need to do so. These readers have done a wonderful job of keeping others informed of bargain prices. Plus it is about time that authors had access to their own sales data. And after the six major publishers agreed to Apple’s demands with agency pricing, I am looking forward to Amazon shaking things up. As of right now that means more selection for me and better prices, but I’m not sure I want Amazon to be the only player in town because a monopoly doesn’t serve anyone well.

There is one potential change on the horizon that I am ambivalent about: putting advertisements in eBooks. Many publishers are considering the idea, because it will allow them to sell books at a greatly reduced price, but they will receive long term gains from ad-clicks or purchased products. Amazon obtained a patent for that in 2009 and supposedly they are considering offering consumer a choice. Book with ads, pay a lower price, or books without are higher, similar to their Kindle with special offers. And authors might still be able to make money on pirated books.

As Bob Dyan stated “Times They are a-Changin.” So, is Amazon getting too big? Or they just competing with Apple? Both Apple and Amazon seem to be aiming for exclusivity. Is that good for us as a consumer? If you haven’t purchased an eReader, are you tempted now? Would you purchase a book with ads?

- Leigh Davis

43 thoughts on “Big Changes in the EBook Market

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  6. I recently got out an old favorite paperback book, and about 25 pages in thought to myself, why am I messing with this book when I can download it on my ipad? So yes, I actually downloaded it, found the page I was on, and did my re-read electronically. Sorry, holding a book and feeling the pages does nothing for me! I can’t make the print of books larger, brighter, easier to read. Turning the pages in my iPad isn’t going to cause an older brittle paperback to start coming apart. On my iPad I read kindle, nook, kobo, PDF – I’m not stuck with just one format. And I can switch to Words With Friends when a move comes in, and back to my book just as quickly. Happy camper here.

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  8. I love my Nook. I am able to exchange books with friends and my local library has lots of ebooks that I can take out on my library card without paying anything. I get 2 weeks free (which for me is usually more than enough) and if no one else is waiting for the books, I can get an additional 2 weeks loan free. Besides there is a B&N right down the road from where I live and they have been most helpful in helping me (as a senior citizen with limited electronic skills). I couldn’t get that with Amazon. I’m thinking of upgrading to the newest version but in the long run, I still prefer to hold a book. But the Nook is great for traveling

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  10. I purchased my first Kindle – the Kindle 3G w/special offers (aka ads) – within the last 2 months, and I’ve been very happy with it.

    The $50 savings was the motivator to put up with ads, but it hasn’t been a problem for me. The ads are non-intrusive, and I’ve actually utilized some of them. Who can beat $1 books?

    Nothing can beat an actual book in hand; I do love the smell and the sound of pages turning. But, it’s so easy (maybe too easy??) to try the Kindle samples and get an instant downloads.

  11. I don’t have a dedicated ereader, but read books on my ipod touch using Kindle or other ereader apps, like Bluefire, which allows me to read ebooks borrowed from the public library.

    I don’t wont be tied to just one vendor, like Amazon, so when I decide I need something with a bigger screen, I will probably go for a tablet – just tossing up whether to get an ipad or an android tablet.

  12. Leigh, when I get my new Kindle Fire, I’m giving my current 3G/WIFI one to my 13yr old niece. She has the Kindle with no 3G, so this is gonna be an upgrade for her. And then she can pass on her current Kindle to another relative or friend.

    Lauren, “bite your tongue”! Even though I have and love my Kindle NOTHING beats a real book. I too, love to touch and hold and yes, even the smell of a real book. Being older than you , (58) I hope I never live to see the day when books are no longer printed, or (like J.D. Robb’s “In Death” books) become so expensive only the rich can afford them. I no longer believe that it’s gotta be print books OR e-books. I am happy as a pig in a trough with the option for both :-)

    • Victoria S: I no longer believe that it’s gotta be print books OR e-books. I am happy as a pig in a trough with the option for both.

      I truly hope you’re right on that. An e-reader would be a choice for me under duress. I prefer the book. So, as long as the options are there, that makes me a happy camper. Already, though, there have been a few novels only available in the e-edition. We’ll see.

  13. I don’t have a eReader and for now I don’t plan on one unless books go out of print (which of course will eventually happen…maybe just maybe in my lifetime, I am 52).
    For me its the turning of the pages the dog ears on the pages from the previous reader and just the “feel” of a book. I have the same obsession with figure skating blades and the sound they make on ice.
    So until I am forced to change…I am sticking to the book!

  14. I love my 3g Kindle (the inexpensive one $79) and I definitely love my second generation Ipad. I don’t use the Ipad for reading books b/c my eyes fatigue easily; and if I ever find myself waiting for whatever I can always read using my Iphone’s kindle app ; )

  15. I too bought the second generation Kindle and read on that, my ipad, itouch and even my phone (when the occasion calls for it). I have been a long time fan of Amazon, since they first came on the scene in large part due to their excellent customer service. I have Amazon Prime and buy many other products besides books from them.

    Even though I am a Kindle owner, I love that all the different e-book makers (B&N, Sony, Kobo) as well as Amazon keep pushing the envelope and each other to produce better quality, more innovative models. It’s only a good thing for us consumers. I hope all of them stay competitive in the e-book market, making better equipment that is increasingly more affordable for all.

  16. I got the very first Kindle and it’s still going strong, after one change of battery. I too have older eyes with a developing cateract, but the Kindle is truly great for people in that situation because of the adjustable font size feature.

    I love it. I love not having to store the physical books any more, too. I have enough hb and pb that I need for professional reasons, so it’s great to have the recreational books (things from which I’ll never need to take a footnote) out in cyberspace rather than in my domestic space.

  17. I agree about the proprietary mindset, but Amazon doesn’t bother me nearly as much as Apple. I know a monopoly isn’t a good thing, so I agree we don’t want to turn over all the control to Amazon, which I why I have a Kobo as well, so I can buy epub books without doing something illegal, like stripping the DRMs. ;-)

    And that, I tink, is the key. With the price of ereaders coming down, it makes sense to get more than one. Having a Kindle is a no-brainer to me. There are too many advantages not to own one, especially for as low as $79. (Wi-fi works fine for my lifestyle, so I buy the cheapest.) No matter what ereader I have, I’d also always have a Kindle.

    My husband and son bought refurbished color Nooks and rooted them, making them into really nice android tablets. Then they put the Kindle app on them and Voila! color ereaders that read epub and mobi. ;-)

  18. I am in agreement with you, Mark. The availability of certain ebooks such as Brockway only through Amazon led me to get the Kindle app on my android phone but I just can’t convince myself to buy a kindle device yet. We will see….

  19. I might also have called it the proprietary mindset. It is an attempt to lock customers into a hardware or software format, a mental attitude Amazon shares with Apple. This mindset is one reason I haven’t bought an Apple product in over a decade and have avoided shopping at Amazon just as long. I’m considering a Kindle DESPITE my dislike of proprietary products partly because of the recent development of ebooks that will be unavailable anywhere else from authors like Brockway that I like.

  20. I have an older Nook and enjoy the opportunity to purchase backlist titles being offered as ebooks.

    I find it frustrating when items are only available for the Kindle – yes, I do know I can download an application to read Kindle books on my computer, but I do not like reading books on the computer.

    If an item is not available in print or a format suitable for the Nook, I won’t be reading it.

  21. I’ve had several models of Sony Reader since 2006. I’m able to keep 3 Readers loaded with all the ebooks I get, keeping myself and two siblings up to date.
    I no longer buy fiction in printed form, since we ran out of room to build more bookshelves a few years ago.
    I recommend Books on the Knob (http://blog.booksontheknob.org/) for frequently updated info about free & bargain ebooks. It lists more Kindle data, but does cover other formats. Sony seems to offer the least freebies, though they still have a fair number if you pay attention.
    I recently downloaded & installed the free Kindle for PC program to start getting some of the Kindle-only freebies I keep seeing mentioned. I’m thinking of adding an actual Kindle to our 3 Sony Readers later, since Amazon’s monopolistic tendencies are going to create ebooks available only in that format.

    • Mark: I recently downloaded & installed the free Kindle for PC program to start getting some of the Kindle-only freebies I keep seeing mentioned. I’m thinking of adding an actual Kindle to our 3 Sony Readers later, since Amazon’s monopolistic tendencies are going to create ebooks available only in that format.

      I do love ereaders and own a sony, nook color and a kindle app on my phone. However, the one thing, and it is significant, I find frustrating is the fact that all of the readers are formatted in such a way that it is difficult to transfer books between readers and formats (ie. from my sony to my nook, etc.) And Amazon has been even more of an issue with their unwillingness to embrace the epub format and the “monopolistic” tendencies you mentioned.

  22. As long as the ads stay on the bottom of the home screen, and do not pop-up while I’m in the middle of reading I can live with ads. That said, I do not have the Kindle with ads. I am, however, one of the alleged 95,000 who pre-ordered the Kindle Fire as soon as I saw the article and link here. I love my Kindle, but have NO desire to see the end of the printed word. My biggest problem with e-books, is not ads, but Editing!
    I just bought a Stuart Woods e-book and his name was spelled wrong on the copyright page!! Really!!??? I cannot tell you how many e-books I have where the spacing is so bad it’s hard to actually read the book.

    I think you are correct about Kindle pricing $79.00 and $99.00 are cheaper than ANY gaming system out there now, and if you have anyone who is remotely interested in reading $100.00 bucks is not too much to pay to nourish that; Christmas at Amazon shoul be amazing this year!! My current Kindle is the Kindle 3/3G WIFI and I think in a couple of years, this now cool device is gonna be like an 8- track player, nobody will have an e-reader with buttons :-)

    I am so looking forward to my Kindle Fire. A tablet that’s affordable, the great e-ink of Amazon, and the Cloud drive for my music! Happy Happy Joy Joy.

  23. I’ve been using an eReader for over a year now and love the accessibility and convenience of it. My biggest worry about the industry is the lifecycle of the product itself. How long can we expect these devices to last before having to replace them, or being persuaded to replace them with the newest model? Will they follow the example of PDAs and cell phones (I hope not!)? I’m not a very fickle consumer, so when I buy something, I want it to last me a good, long time. Here’s hoping my eReader won’t become obsolete as I slow down and the world speeds up. There will always be room in my life for printed books as well. I see print books becoming a niche market as eBooks proliferate.

    I don’t like the idea of ads. I’d pay more for a product to be rid of it and would really resent having to pay more to be without it.

  24. I see Kobo will start self publishing next winter and it too is bringing in a “pad”.

    I have the orginal kobo and a touch. I hate the touch, going to give it to my Mother. I’m debating the pad since I want to go away in a year and I really need something – I have an old cellphone – to access the internet with as well.

    Right now, most of my books come used or via the library. Maybe one day I’ll use the kobo more.

  25. I have a color Nook and also the older B/W version. I love having ebooks: from the ability to travel much more lightly (instead of having 4-5 paperbacks I just have my reader), no storage issues so I am not losing books because I don’t have room on my bookshelves, to the apps I have downloaded like Cribbage. I have enjoyed magazines, rented a textbook for my daughter and if I forget my reading glasses I can easily bump up the font so I can read wherever and whenever. The downsides are no new book smell and sometimes the cost is higher than the paperback cost.

  26. I’m with Tee on this. I don’t want books to fade away into historical artifacts, for reading screens, despite all the efforts to make it painless, is just too difficult for me. Older eyes have a lot of miles on them.

  27. I don’t think we have to worry about Amazon becoming horrible to their customer’s ….they are well aware of what happens to sales when there is a backlash over something and in the digital world…the news spreads fast. I myself own two kindles, one is a 2nd generation and one is a new 3rd gen 3G wifi with special offers and the special offers don’t bother me…don’t know how I would feel about an ad in a book itself but Harlie did it for years by putting a postage card thing halfway through the book so maybe it won’t bother me…don’t know yet…I think what Amazon is doing is a win/win for both authors and consumers but it’s going to hit the Big publishers hard ….and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing at this point…I’m still ticked over how Apple and the big publishers conspired on the “Agency Pricing” model, which we are all a victim of now so…right now I’m “Team Amazon” all the way!

  28. When I accidentally broke my Kindle2 last spring, I opted for the less expensive Kindle3 with ads. The ads consist of the screen saver and a small banner at the bottom of the home page. At this point, there are no ads in the books themselves. I find the ads so ignorable that I’ve missed a few good ones! Right now, the “Special Offer” Kindle owners can pick a book for $1 from a list of hundreds of titles. Once I took advantage of an offer for “$20 worth of books for $10.” If the ads stay small and at the bottom of the page, I could deal with having them within books.

    I’m almost certainly going to buy a $79 Kindle3 for my oldest daughter for Christmas so she can share my kindle library.

    Apple and the Agency Price(fix)ing made me so mad I refuse to buy any of the participating agency books on kindle (or from Apple). If my library doesn’t carry a book I want to read, I wait for it to get to the used book stores or buy it with a coupon (which they won’t allow for ebooks). The publishers made a tactical error, imo. Readers who now can’t buy discounted ebooks from the “agency” publishers have turned to indy authors and “rogue” publishers, which often offer special deals. In the long run, the ability of indy authors and new ebook publishers to compete with the agency-priced publishers is going to change the game. In an effort to control the industry with old-school methods, the publishers have mainly shown it’s inability to evolve with the times. Sort of like Blockbuster, and Borders, and…do we see a pattern here?

  29. I love my Kindle. You cannot pry it out of my hot little hands. I take it everywhere! eReaders have really changes the way I buy and read books. First of all, it helped me re-discover the romance genre and all it’s fabulous sub-genres, so now I’m a huge romance novel fan, whereas before, I didn’t read as much.

    It changed the way I buy books now, too. If I am interested in a title, I’ll bookmark it or put it on a watch list of some sort. Since ebooks don’t go away, I can come back later and purchase that book when I’m ready to read it, rather than “take it home” now.

    However… when there’s a sale on, I do sometimes go kinda crazy. Last weekend I had a 60% off code, and bought 48 books from an online ebook site. I have never, EVER purchased that many physical books at one time. But at those prices it was easy and affordable, and I don’t trip over that “stack” of books by my bedside!

  30. This hits me on two levels. One as an author and another as a reader. I love Amazon and always have. I think you did an amazing job hitting the points. But in addition to the comics Amazon was courting there is also the digital children’s books.

    I plan on buying each of my older children a Kindle for xmas. My youngest 7 reads books on the generic tablet we have with the Kindle app.

    As an author I’m slightly scared that Amazon is going to push all their authors ahead of those that haven’t signed with them. Giving them exclusive top list right or something to that effect.

    What I love about Amazon is it’s consumer driver with tagging and reviews. I really don’t want that to be lost.

  31. Pretty much if I want to read a book I read it, so that means that if the only way to read a novel is to read it with advertisements I will do so.

    We are probably going to take advantage of the new kindle prices and brands to expand from one shared kindle between my husband and I to two. It’s ironic because when I asked for a kindle he said we would never use it. Now he is in serious danger of being a kindle hog. I always knew he would love it.

    maggie b.

    • maggie b.: Pretty much if I want to read a book I read it, so that means that if the only way to read a novel is to read it with advertisements I will do so.
      We are probably going to take advantage of the new kindle prices and brands to expand from one shared kindle between my husband and I to two.It’s ironic because when I asked for a kindle he said we would never use it. Now he is in serious danger of being a kindle hog. I always knew he would love it.maggie b.

      since I know your husband…he is not in danger of being…he is a kindle hog!

  32. I am so sold on ereaders!! I got a Sony last Christmas, and since then I have read more books on it, than physical paper books. It just makes everything so easy! And I can borrow books from the library to my ereader without ever leaving the house, and without risking late fees!

    One big bonus… as I’ve gotten older, my close up vision has gotten worse, so the feature on my Sony that allows me to make the print larger, when the light gets worse, is… there is no other word for it… earthshattering! Love it.

  33. I’m still not ready to buy, though getting closer. My local library has started lending e-books but not the ones I’d be interested in reading. I get most of my reading material from booksfree.com, a subscription pb lending library. I’m hoping that someone does something like that for e-books before I take the plunge, though seeing authors I like going e- and all the bargains to be had has been tempting me more and more.

    As for adds, I’d be happy to ignore the ones I don’t like and click on the ones that interest me in order to save money.

  34. I feel like I’m one of the only people left without an ereader. I’ve been perfectly happy with my library and local BN. Plus I couldn’t decide between Kindle or Nook, it was driving me crazy. But the last few months I’m really wishing I had one. I’m on doctor ordered maternity leave, practically a shut in. Sigh. I keep thinking, if only I had a Kindle I could get that book right now. Also I’m clueing in that there’s a whole world of terrific ebooks that I want access to. And now Amazon introduced the new line up of cool, cheaper Kindles….well, I think now is the time! I recently informed my husband that he’s getting me a Kindle for Christmas. :)

  35. Just this morning on Amazon, I found the Kindle edition of the “Wild and Steamy” anthology which contains a Meljean Brook’s novella “The Blushing Bounder” FOR FREE!!! I’m loving my Kindle!

  36. When I first got my Kindle3g last August, I told my husband I did not want the one with the ads. I ended up with it anyways as I sacrificed dealing with the ads in order to get the 3g. Several monthes later, I like having the ads because every once in a while I come across a great deal from Amazon. Just last week I downloaded Victoria Dahls Bad Boys Do for $1. Can’t beat that! If they were able to do the ads in ebooks to drop the price without making the ads an annoyance, I am all for it. Amazon rocks!!

  37. Leigh asked: “If you haven’t purchased an eReader, are you tempted now?”

    Not yet, Leigh. I have a cataract that will need to be taken care of eventually and maybe then my eyes will do better with an ereader. For now, I still love the books and, quite frankly, hope they don’t go out of style. But I, too, can see the handwriting on the wall. Speaking of handwriting, that too seems to be a failing personal skill in favor of the keyboard. So, I’m sure further down the road, if favorite printed books become scarce, I may eventually succumb to an ereader.

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