At the Apple World Wide Developers Conference, CEO Steve Jobs announced that in 65 days, five million e-books have been downloaded for the iPad. Using some sort of voodoo algorithm, he claims that amounts to 22% of all e-book sales. I am not sure how he calculated that given many of the e-book retailers are private and publishers are loathe to share those sorts of figures. Nonetheless, the take-away is that Apple is selling lots of e-books for the iPad.
This is important for a number of reasons, the most apparent one being that reading books on mobile, digital devices are real. The other notable revelation could be that consumers are OK with reading e-books on an LCD screen (iPad) even though it offers a less optimal (read, harder on the eyes) reading experience than e-paper devices such as the Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, etc.. This early in the e-reader evolution, perhaps consumers are willing to trade a less optimal e-reading experience for the added bonus of video, games and other applications available for the iPad.
While this is a topic worthy of deeper discussion, a few points to consider:
The segmentation of mobile content consumption devices for e-reading is beginning to take shape. Well, at least for now. Based on the assumption that e-paper displays (e-ink and others) will not be able to support color or effectively render web browsers, e-readers will come in three flavors (take note, holiday shoppers): black and white e-readers with e-ink displays priced $149 and below (I am guessing a $99 price point by Q4); multimedia e-readers that offer e-reading (as well as video and Android application support) on smallish 7-inch LCD screen (as in the Pandigital Novel) priced at $199 and then all matter of tablets that offer e-reading, video, some productivity apps supported by Apple’s OS or Android or… some other platform (WebOS, Windows…).
And then there’s the interesting ubiquity approach multiplatform providers such as Kobo, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are taking. The strategy of having your reading platform’s interface/app on as many devices as possible as well as some in OEM deals (such as B&N on the Pandigital Novel) seems to be picking up steam. Making money from sales of your own device, books sold on your own device, and books sold on other devices may define not only the e-book retailing space but also begin to reveal who is in the hardware space for the long haul and who is just looking for a means to showcase their platform.
And then there’s Google Editions. That’s a story for another post or report. Stay tuned.
Lastly, as someone who has the privilege of testing e-reading experiences on new devices, here are the results of sample size one:
Alex: I find the two screens confusing and its lack of integrated support for Adobe Digital Editions (to allow me to easily add library books) makes it a tough sell. Downloading books from Kobo using the small LCD window with a web browser is a non starter.
Kobo: At its $149 price point, a winner. Good e-ink reading experience on a 6-inch black and white screen. Some say it’s “de-featured,” but I am among those who don’t need WiFi or 3G on a device suited only for e-reading. Also, it has great integration with Adobe Digital Editions so I can easily add digital books from the local library
Among the iPad application space, I think the apps for Kobo, B&N and Kindle are fairly equal, except the ones for Kobo and B&N allow me to read the library books I have saved in their clouds. I am still waiting for all three to support newspapers and magazines in their tablet apps. The color and video capability gives these providers much more to work with than on their own one-dimensional readers.
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