The Books Business Is Bigger Than the Film Business

That and numerous other interesting facts are available in this NYRB article about the iPad and the future of publishing, wherein it is noted that Mr. Steve Jobs ate a little humble pie when he decided to get in on ebooks. After all, this was the same Jobs who declared not so long ago when the Kindle came out:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the US read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

The article also discusses the other e-reader of note, Barnes & Noble’s Nook:

When the Nook was announced, tech pundits wondered aloud if it would be a “Kindle killer.” It wasn’t, because, while it generally improves on Amazon’s model by, for example, being easier to navigate, it’s basically the same thing—a small, lightweight, pocketable, durable, black-and-white book reader. Both are simple to operate. Both allow access to hundreds of thousands of titles, the Kindle through Amazon’s extensive bookstore, the Nook through Barnes and Noble’s. While I prefer the Nook because it connects to the Internet through both Wi-Fi and 3G, unlike the Kindle, which has only 3G connectivity and is not operable without being tethered to a computer to retrieve books in certain geographic regions (like mine) with poor access to 3G, the reading experience is indistinguishable.

And then, of course, there is the bit about Amazon trying like crazy to build market share for the Kindle:

Somehow, maybe by focus group, maybe by luck, Amazon determined that the ideal price point was $9.99 and made that the sticker price for most of its titles, despite hardback prices that were often more than twice that, despite losing money on them, and despite many publishers’ belief that cheap e-books were going to cut into their bread-and-butter retail sales. For better or worse, there was a catnip quality to the $9.99 book, much the way there was for the 99-cent song. By May 2009, Kindle downloads accounted for 35 percent of Amazon’s book sales when there was a Kindle edition available, as the folks over at Apple were well aware, since a lot of those sales were coming through the Kindle app, not the Kindle itself.

My guess is that Amazon is currently working on a supercharged version of the Kindle, able to seriously compete with the iPad in terms of things like Web browsing and accessories. That’s my guess, although I hope it’s not, since I actually prefer e-readers with less connectivity, not more. As the article notes:

And, perhaps most crucially, even though the move is on to add Web browsing, so far electronic book readers reduce the temptation to check e-mail or the baseball score or stock prices or headlines or Twitter or all of the above every few minutes, allowing a reader to do what readers typically like to do most: get lost in the pages of a book. That the pages are not made of paper, that the ink is made from electrical charges, does not matter.


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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Scott Esposito, Marcel Inhoff. Marcel Inhoff said: RT @ScottEsposito: The Books Business Is Bigger Than the Film Business http://bit.ly/bISB28 [...]

    Posted by Tweets that mention The Constant Conversation | The Books Business Is Bigger Than the Film Business -- Topsy.com | May 23, 2010, 7:37 pm
  2. This is one reason why the iPad marketing is bewildering to me. They could have absolutely murdered the Kindle with this by resolving the problems with Amazon’s product (bad graphics, cheap-looking, no WiFi, no apps, etc.) and emphasizing book sales through the iTunes store. Instead, they pretended that it was barely an ereader at all, and no one can figure out quite what it’s for (and problems like screen glare make it seem like a bad ereader choice.) So instead of people comparing it to the very old-looking, Nintendo Gameboy-like Kindle, people are comparing it to iPhone, iTouch and netbooks, where it isn’t such an obvious improvement.

    Posted by Travis Godsoe | May 25, 2010, 1:55 pm
  3. I think the whole Amazon vs. Apple should be interesting to watch. Amazon’s reputation has suffered recently with a number of people now comparing the behemoth online retailer to Walmart, even going so far as to label it the Walmart of the online world.

    Apple’s and Jobs’ great genius, on the other hand, is in safeguarding Apple as a prestige brand, from the design of each product to the pristine retail space. While Bezos has eschewed the retail space, my perspective is that Jobs clearly understands the need for sensory pleasure to place Apple’s products — almost literally — on a pedestal for consumers to adore.

    Posted by Soo Jin Oh | May 28, 2010, 2:42 am

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