Amazon’s Kindle is a neat idea, as are eReaders in general. But they aren’t much good if there’s nothing to 'eRead' on them. Book publishers, still stuck in last century’s economic models, are slow to come around to Jeff Bezo’s world of bits-and-bytes, leaving a gap in what is and what might be. Amazon has moved to shore-up that gap, at least for the Kindle and Amazon’s digital bookstore: it’s offering to pay authors and publishers a new royalty of 70 percent of list price--doubling the current 35 percent rate.
Well, not quite 70 percent. First, Amazon wants to deduct delivery costs. This is readily factored into the equation, as Amazon projects costs to be 15-cents per megabyte. And the book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 to qualify for this royalty rate. On top of this the book’s ‘ePrice’ must be at least 20 percent less than its physical copy price.
Oh, and Amazon wants distribution rights throughout the world where the publisher/author has such rights. The book can’t have been published prior to 1923. And the book must be sold in the United States.
Honestly, though, isn’t the soul of an author or publisher worth a royalty of 70 percent?
The cat was already out of the bag yesterday thanks to a trigger-happy webmaster at Amazon, but today the Kindle maker officially introduces the Kindle DX with Global Wireless. This new version of the 9.7-inch wireless e-book reader now offers wireless content delivery in over 100 countries, Amazon says.
"Kindle DX is great for personal and professional documents, cookbooks, and textbooks -- anything that is highly formatted. Documents look so good on the big Kindle DX display, that you'll find yourself changing ink toner cartridges less often and printing fewer documents," said Ian Freed, Amazon.com Vice President, Amazon Kindle. "Now Kindle DX with Global Wireless lets customers enjoy the ease of Whispernet wireless delivery of books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and documents while traveling in over 100 countries worldwide."
In case you missed the original DX the first time around, this larger-screen e-reader offers 2.5 times the surface area of the Kindle's 6-inch display and includes 16 shades of gray.
The Global Wireless version is available for preorder for $489 and will start shipping on January 19.
Although sales figures are hard to hammer down, its seems like e-book readers were a smash hit this year. Amazon alone is claiming that the Kindle was the most gifted item in its history. No numbers were mentioned, but when you consider that it is up against everything from game consoles to GPS’s this is no small milestone. Another interesting stat is that on Christmas day, e-books outsold their paper brethren by a pretty healthy margin. No doubt this was all the new Kindle owners firing up their devices in search of content, but it only further fuels speculation that all reading will eventually shift to digital distribution in the future.
The Kindle seems to have been a raging success, but the Barnes and Noble Nook appears to be suffering a bit with early reports showing that its content servers became overloaded preventing users from downloading purchased e-books.This might end up being but a small blip of bad press in the products long life cycle, but its definitely not the kind attention Barnes and Noble was hoping for over the holiday. In this case the success of the Nook can be attributed to its failings, but that’s small consolation for its owners.
Did you get an e-book reader over the holidays? What do you think of it?
Let’s face it, for hackers digital rights management (DRM) protections are a challenge that can’t be passed up. Not just because of the notoriety hacking a DRM brings, but because DRMs are so darned easy to crack--sort of the cybercrime version of wolves culling the weak from the heard. Case-in-point, the Israeli hacker “Labba”, with a little help from his friends, has cracked the DRM that protects ebooks on the Kindle.
The DRM for Kindle content is intended to keep what’s sold for the Kindle on the Kindle. Labba and his cohorts weren’t too keen on the restriction, and have hacked the DRM so that Kindle ebooks are converted into an open format, allowing PDF versions to be produced. Once in PDF format, the ebook can be moved to any number of electronic devices.
It’s a good bet that Amazon isn’t too pleased by this, and will move to ‘repair’ the DRM for Kindle ebooks. Which, of course, starts but another round of fox-and-hare with hackers. Given the rising popularity of the Kindle, it’s a game that might go on for some time to come.
In an increasingly overcrowded e-reader market, content will likely decide the ultimate winner. It worked for Apple, and Sony is hoping they are on track as well by signing new deals with News Corp to add content from the Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, and the New York Post to its e-ink devices.
According to Reuters, Sony will offer monthly subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal for $14.99, MarketWatch for $10.99, and the New York Post for $9.99. It seems as though Sony believes the e-ink editions formatted for their devices can command a slight premium since the Wall Street Journal online can be viewed from any web browser for less than $8 a month at today’s prices. This represents a pretty significant price delta, but it likely has something to do with the additional formatting that needs to go into reorganizing the content for a smaller screen.
Exact sales numbers for e-ink devices are hard to hammer down, but analysts currently forecast the Kindle alone will bring home about $301.4 million in revenue for Amazon in 2009, and this number is expect to grow as high as $1.8 billion by 2012. Only time will tell if the Kindle will remain the dominant platform, but clearly its still anyone game at this point.
Which e-reader do you think has the potential to become the next iPod? Or will the market fragment the way PC’s did?
Basically, Amazon has linked its sale of DVDs/Blu-rays with its Video On Demand service. In it you can buy for viewing, either streaming or using the PC-only Unbox Video Player, loads of movies and TV shows. (Like you can on iTunes or Netflix or iReel or Hulu or Blockbuster or...) When you purchase a select movie on DVD or Blu-ray, a standard definition version of the movie is added to your Video On Demand library. (A quick search of Amazon shows 313 titles fall under the term “select”, including The National Parks: America’s Best Idea on Blu-ray--so what are you waiting for?)
Amazon’s motivation for the promotion, which is being offered for a limited time, is unclear. Janko Roettgers, of NewTeeVee, speculates it’s an attempt to boost sagging sales of physical media. The preference for digital or streaming versions of movies appears to be cutting into profit margins. Adding a digital version could just be the incentive needed to get physical media sales back on track.
And it might also be that having a digital copy simplifies matters for people viewing ‘on the go,’ which is increasing in popularity. Engadget, for example, reports that about 10% to 12% of movies bought with a digital copy have that digital copy activated. (The figure was 20% for purchasers of The Dark Knight.) In this vein let’s not forget the increasing popularity of home streaming media networks. Could be that people are tiring of being tied down to a TV and a DVD player. Amazon might just be testing these waters.
The magazine industry is finally starting to realize they need to get going on this whole internet thing. A group of publishers today committed to begin digital distribution of their properties. There are little actual details to go on right now but we do know that the principal partners in the joint venture are Time Inc, Condé Nast, Meredith, Hearst, and News Corp.
The entities have individually worked on a number of digital formats. Condé Nast for instance, is building a digital reader with Adobe. Then there is the digital magazine prototype format shown off by Time just recently. In all likelihood, the partners will need to settle on one standard.
The likely goal of the joint venture is to ensure publishers retain direct control of distribution rather than allowing heavy hitters like Apple or Amazon to resell their content. Can publishers expect Amazon and Apple to support this move? While Apple seems to be happy to cut deals to get more content into the iTunes store, Amazon may be a tougher sell. Amazon will be concerned with protecting the end to end experience on their Kindle eReader. Publishers can only hope their combined influence can get them a favorable deal.
Sales tax aside, how cool would it be to pick up your Amazon.com order locally instead of waiting for your items to ship? According to recent rumors, that's a very real possibility, provided you reside in the U.K.
The Times Online in London says Amazon "has launched a secret search for brick-and-mortar stores to support its rapidly growing website." The online mega chain is said to be searching for high-profile locales while the Borders book chain is shuttering its doors.
"When Amazon was just selling books and CDs that fitted easily through the letterbox it was fine to be a web-only business, but now it has branched out into everything from children's bikes to electricals it believes it could boost sales by having stores that offer a collection point for shoppers. It will probably be an Argos-sytle operation," said a source familiar with Amazon's proposals.
It sounds risky to move from the web to the street, but if anyone can pull it off, it would be Amazon. During the credit crunch, Amazon defied Wall Street forecasts with a 28 percent surge in sales to $5.5 billion. The company's value has never been higher, including during the dotcom era.
Amazon has added a native PDF reader to its Kindle 2 e-reader, making it only the second device in the Kindle family to boast this feature. The Seattle-based company also announced a much enhanced battery life for the Kindle 2. The longer battery life, it says, is the fruit of a six-month-long firmware improvement program.
According to Amazon, it has managed to extend the Kindle's battery life by 85 percent, which translates to seven days on a single charge with wireless turned on. But apparently Amazon's firmware improvement program failed to yield any such improvements in battery performance when the wireless is turned off. These enhancements will be delivered to existing Kindle owners as part of a firmware update. Some earlier versions of the device will also be receiving native PDF supports via Whispernet wireless.
Barnes and Noble is facing an enviable predicament, that of failing to keep the Nook in stock. But Amazon made it very clear in a press release that the “Kindle is in stock and available for immediate shipment today.”
It's a pretty slick deal of Amazon to open up its Kindle library to devices beyond those of the company's handheld book readers. But just because the Kindle software has gone multi-platform doesn't mean that it's a sure winner. No, it's the ease-of-use and almost iTunes-like functionality of this simple e-book reader that makes it a great piece of software for your desktop or laptop PC.
You can't do very much with Kindle for PC aside from read books purchased through Amazon's extensive library--which, in itself, makes sense. You wouldn't really want another piece of software to read PDFs, right? Joking aside, the one thing this software does, it does well. Grabbing new book titles from Amazon is as easy as logging into the Web site, hitting download, and waiting for the book to quickly refresh itself in your Kindle for PC home screen. Your collection of digital novels appears as the front covers of each title, and you can sort this list by the order in which you downloaded the e-books, their names, or the author's name.