E-Reader War Heats Up and Amazon Launch New Imprints

Now that Transfection has flown the net, we can get back to business.

Tomorrow, I will continue my free guide to self-publishing with a section on pricing. Today, I want to look at some of the big news stories of the last week or so.

The E-Reader War Hots Up

On Monday, Canadian upstart Kobo launched a new touchscreen e-reader for the tasty price of $129.99. It only weighs 200 grams (take that, iPad!) and uses the same e-ink technology as the Kindle (easy on the eyes, can be read in sunlight). It can store up to 1,000 books (and can be expanded to 30,000 with memory cards).

One thing Amazon should take note of is that it will be available in multiple languages: English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian, and “customers will be able to use a localised store in their own language”. As a contrast, Amazon only ships the Kindle in English and with English instructions, usually with a US plug attached.

The following day, Barnes & Noble – who seem to have no interest in the international market – announced their new touchscreen e-ink Nook. While they have trumped the new Kobo on memory (can store 2,000 books) and battery-life (2 months rather than 1 month), it just doesn’t look as pretty. It will retail for $139.99

Amazon countered with their latest offering, an ad-supported 3G Kindle, priced at $164. The ads only display on start-up and when the Kindle is “sleeping”, but if that bothers you an ad-free version is available for $189.

Expect even more models and even lower prices by September in time for the holiday season. What will this mean? More people switching to e-books, and a surge in e-book sales as they “load up” their devices. This market is getting bigger all the time, and it’s only going to get bigger.

Waterstones Bought for £53m

The largest book chain in the UK – Waterstones – has finally found a buyer – news that will be cheered by everyone in the book business in the UK (and readers too). Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut’s first move was to appoint highly respected indie bookseller James Daunt as the managing director.

Excellent analysis over at Declan Conner’s blog.

Liberty Media makes play for Barnes & Noble

In a surprise move, John Malone’s Liberty Media have made an offer to buy 70% of Barnes & Noble in a deal that would value the company at $1.02 billion, if it goes ahead. One of the prime motivators for such a high price seems to be the outstanding success of the Nook colour, which has captured some market share from Amazon.

New Imprint for Amazon

Last week, Amazon launched their fifth publishing imprint. Thomas & Mercer will focus on mysteries and thrillers, launching with four titles in the fall. This comes hot on the heels of their announcement regarding their new romance imprint, Montlake.

In addition, Amazon have snapped up industry heavyweight Larry Kirshbaum to set up a further imprint which is expected to focus on non-fiction and literary fiction. Hiring the former head of Time Warner Books, and more recently LJK Literary Management, is a clear statement of intent from Amazon.

While Amazon has been slowly getting into the publishing game, this latter move is a clear ramping-up, and will make it very real for a lot of people in trade publishing.

It will be interesting to see if anyone (indie bookstores, Barnes & Noble) refuse to stock Amazon’s books.

Konrath’s Indie fight & Smith’s gift card

On that note, there was another dust-up over at Joe Konrath’s blog. This time, Konrath was the target of some ire, rather than his guest. He had gotten wind of a mooted boycott by indie bookstores of his new title Stirred (co-written with Blake Crouch), in response to it being published by Amazon’s new imprint.

Konrath was clearly stung by this, which is understandable given his history of marathon book tours and all-day signings, and he made a plea to indie booksellers not to go through with it. He rounded off his post with some interesting suggestions on how indie booksellers could survive in the digital age.

Things, as usual, heated up in the comments, with some anonymous posters suggesting Konrath was getting his just desserts for voraciously championing e-books and Amazon. Many indie writers defended him, pointing out that if all indie writers disappeared tomorrow, indie booksellers would still face the exact same set of problems.

Others chimed in to add to Konrath’s & Crouch’s list of ways indie booksellers could weather the digital storm and partner with indies.

However, my favourite suggestion came separately in a fascinating blog post from Dean Wesley Smith. He has a superb, creative idea on how indie booksellers could sell e-books that I’ve never heard before.

Check it out, it could be a low-risk way for indie writers to get their books into indie bookstores, without creating a print version, that works well for both parties.

Eoin Purcell & The Value Web

Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of all the moving parts in this chaotic new publishing world. Eoin Purcell does a better job than anyone in his latest blog post of explaining how all the parts fit together.

In essence, he shows how the old linear publishing value chain (from author, to agent, to publisher, to distributor, to bookseller, to retailer, then to reader) has broken down, and what is replacing it is something far more chaotic and complex.

EPUB 3 Introduced

Have you ever wondered why it seems that most e-books are fiction? As someone who is assembling a non-fiction title right now, I can tell you they are a lot more complex.

All those bells and whistles that print books use to break up text – different fonts, boxes, graphs, pictures, charts, pictograms, and creative layouts – are difficult or impossible to do with e-books because of the limitations of the various formats (especially MOBI, which is favoured by Amazon).

At the IDPF conference in the run-up to BookExpo America (which is taking place right now) they discussed the release of EPUB3, which is hoped will become the new industry standard. I hope so too, it will allow a lot more flexibility in formatting, which is crucial for non-fiction.

Amazon To Accept EPUB Files

In related news, Amazon has told publishers that it will begin accepting EPUB files in the near future, and, crucially, will allow Kindle readers to read EPUB files (instead of MOBI). This is a great move, and will streamline book production in the future.

Writers who sign with Amazon’s imprints are usually bound with exclusivity clauses regarding the sale of their e-books, i.e. the Kindle store only. This will make prospective deals with Amazon’s imprints juicier for writers, as they will no longer be locking out fans who own e-readers other than the Kindle.

Reviews

If You Go Into The Woods got an excellent, thoughtful review from BookedinChico. I’m very grateful, thank you. Also, Irish author JJ Toner gave Transfection four stars on Goodreads.

I’m looking forward to his upcoming release, a collection of science fiction shorts very much in the mould of Douglas Adams and Grant Naylor.  You can read the blurb here.

Transfection Competition Winners

The competition was a great success. There was a big surge in blog traffic, and sales for both my titles jumped. Because I am such a big softie, I decided to give a free copy to everyone who helped spread the word.

I have email addresses for some of you – you should already have your free copy – and I have sent messages to the rest on Twitter.

It’s likely that I missed one or two, so if you entered (retweeted, posted on Facebook, or blogged), and you haven’t heard from me by now, please get in touch – I have a free copy of Transfection for you. You can leave a note in the comments below, or send an email to david dot gaughran at gmail dot com.

Don’t be shy!

About David Gaughran

David Gaughran is Irish, living in Prague, and the author of Mercenary, A Storm Hits Valparaiso, Let's Get Digital, Let's Get Visible, and this here blog.
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13 Responses to E-Reader War Heats Up and Amazon Launch New Imprints

  1. Interesting and informative post as always! I really hope you’re right and the prices for eReaders come down for Christmas. Believe it or not, I still don’t have one and currently my money is going into getting my books ready to publish.

    Thanks for the copy of Transfection. Looking forward to reading it!

    Like

    • I’m the same, and they will definitely come down in September when Amazon launch the table and Apple release a new iPad.

      I expect the Kindle to be $99 or less. That’s probably what I’ll go for but I like the look of that new Kobo one.

      Like

      • The Kobo sounds great, but will it be available in the UK? And I’m really jonesing for the Kindle 3G. Probably I would do fine with the cheaper Kindle, but I WANT’S IT!!!!! lol

        Like

      • They already are available in the UK as far as I know (and the defintely have a UK e-bookstore) – they just aren’t that visible yet because they haven’t partnered with a retailed yet, but are looking to do so. But you can get them in WH Smith (on the website at least).

        Like

  2. Hektor Karl says:

    It wouldn’t shock me if Amazon had some sort of $99 deal this summer. It would shock me if we haven’t seen a $99 Kindle by Christmas.

    Like

  3. I’ll be very interested to see what happens with a $99 Kindle. Didn’t they do that price or something close last Christmas? Whatever the price was, I remember reading about it selling out in 4 seconds. That’s a LOT of people sitting there hitting ‘refresh’ every few seconds, waiting for the sale to start. Isn’t it Konrath who predicts that when the regular price of a Kindle (or other ereader) hits $99, it’s all over but the shouting?

    I really gotta get my novel ready. Looking for a late October, early November release (plus some more short stories in the meantime). Here’s to hoping the uptick of interest in all things Norse from the Thor movie holds out. (Even if he is the comic book hero instead of the mythic version.) Hmmm, wonder when it will come out on DVD. October/November would be good.

    Like

    • Well, there are cheaper e-readers than that already. You can get bargain e-readers for as little as $49 on some stores, but they aren’t very good.

      But when Amazon goes that low, it will be huge, for sure. And I am 100% sure they will. They will have one, maybe two, tablets out in September in time for the run up to the holidays. I’m sure that at the very least, the ad-supported Kindle 3 will be cut to $99.

      That’s a big psychological price point, and a lot of people would be willing to try out a gadget at that price. When you add that to all the media attention e-books are getting on a daily basis, it’s going to be a huge time for e-books all the way from November thru February. I’m hoping I can get my novel out in time too.

      I think it is all over bar the shouting already. People just don’t know it yet. Mike Shatzkin said a while back that if bookstores lost another 15% of their business they would go bust. Borders is on life-support, B&N’s bookstore side is suffering. When Amazon becomes the only place where people buy books, what do you think Amazon are going to push?

      Re the DVD, it’s usually 3 or 4 months unless they want to rush something/hold something back for valentines/christmas etc. I think you’ll be good.

      Like

  4. Great post! love all the information. thanks for sharing!

    Like

    • Hi Shaunda,

      I’ll be putting all the articles on the Digital Revolution and the guide to self-publishing into a free e-book which you will be able to download from the site in a month or so.

      Dave

      Like

  5. OHMYLANTA!!! The Kobo comes in LILAC!!! And only £99! I may just have to ditch my obsession with Kindle. lol

    Like

  6. WFMeyer says:

    Hi David, your post makes me want to get a Kobo – even though I have a Kindle 3. Do you know if EPUB files will work on Kobo?

    Like

    • Kobo uses EPUB.

      I haven’t checked any of these readers out personally, just going on the reviews I like the sound of the Kobo. One reviewer said that the Nook has a smarter interface – I would really test them all before purchasing.

      I like the Kindle myself, but with my sausage fingers, those tiny buttons could be a struggle. I might just wait til September, when all the fancy new toys will be out.

      Like

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