As I read the article about the new Kindle upgrades coming up in October, I started to feel really overwhelmed. There is so much to choose from these days. So, I thought I’d break it down a bit. It is all a matter of what type of operating system you prefer (Android or Apple iOS) and what uses you have for your devices.
The Amazon Kindle has been out since 2007 and has evolved a great deal over the last four years to compete with the growing e-reader market: Nook, Kobo, Sony, and most recently, Google’s iriver Story. It has been interesting to watch how obvious the competition is which all of the companies dropping prices and mocking each others’ style. Note the latest touchscreen craze.
Then we have the NookColor, a mixed tablet and e-reader that has succeeded in knocking the Kindle off of it its pedestal.
In terms of e-readers, to me, the Kindle wins hands down. I’ve really enjoyed my Kindle and am looking forward to a new touchscreen version. Amazon has excellent customer service, and shows no sign of crashing and burning anytime soon, unlike Barnes & Noble and Borders. If prices keep dropping the way they have, they’ll be pretty cheap here soon. Now, if only we can stop the rising e-book prices. But, library lending and all of the free and reduced priced e-books available out there might just take care of that.
The iPad wins here. I am not an Apple fiend by any means, but like the Kindle, the iPad has been around for over a year and offers a lot of different apps for various purposes. I use mine as a laptop basically. I also love that I can enlarge the text so easily. Give me a year and I might be saying something different, but for now, I go for the iPad. Other tablets to watch: Acer Iconia, Samsung Galaxy Tab, and of course the Kindle Tablet.
Why have a tablet AND an e-reader? I don’t think of my Kindle as a computer. iBooks does not have nearly the book collection that Amazon does, and reading on the iPad Kindle app does not feel the same. I can still curl up with the Kindle in bed or on the couch, and it isn’t hard on the eyes. I love how both Kindle and iPad can fit easily into a tote bag. Plus, e-readers are getting to be cheap enough that it wouldn’t be a huge setback to have both.
And then there are smartphones…but that market is a whole niche of its own.
As of this morning, Monday the 18th of July, it seems pretty much inevitable that Borders will no longer be a presence in the American retail space soon. Their failure to compete with Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, especially with regard to the Kindle and Nook eReaders, led the company to bankruptcy earlier this year. At this time, Borders Group employs over 11,000 people in over 400 stores nationwide.
At this point, bidding for the company has passed and there seems to be little hope for recovery for America’s second largest book retailer. While earlier this month a buyer had seemingly been found for the troubled company, creditors have rejected the bid based on the possibility that the new owner would be able to liquidate the company after purchase. Unable to find common ground on that topic, and having no other serious bids, liquidation of what is left of Borders seems to be a sure thing.
Overall, this would seem to be a story about a failure to adapt to a changing marketplace. Even before the eBook revolution, digital distribution had become a major, and possibly the major, means of music acquisition for many consumers. Hundreds of Borders Superstores around the country still kept, and still keep, whole floors of CDs collecting dust.
When it came time to jump into eReading, Borders was late to the game and didn’t really manage to do anything to set themselves apart. Their own eBook store, built in 2008 after breaking away from an affiliation with Amazon, was weak to begin with and eventually ended up being replaced outright by Canadian partner Kobo. While they did make a splash as the first company to being a sub-$150 eReader to America by way of the previously mentioned Kobo partnership, no real effort was made to produce or even settle on a single product.
The decline of the company was not abrupt. The last time Borders turned a profit was back in 2006. Still, many will mourn the death of yet another major brick & mortar book retailer as the convenience and lack of overhead that sites like Amazon.com provide make the local bookstore less profitable and less common. Should things go the way they look to be over the next several days, Barnes & Noble may well be the last major bookseller with a nationwide physical presence.
All of this may be good news for Amazon as they become that much more essential for the avid reader. Without a local Borders store, many consumers will be forced to turn to the internet to make their book purchases. It will even likely have some small impact on the sales of Kindle eReaders as the ease of acquisition for less prominent eReading devices, previously sold to varying degrees in participating Borders stores, drops off. Some even wonder whether this might not hasten the decline of the printed book, since it makes the impulsive browsing experience that much less tactile. If one is forced to buy something that can’t be held and inspected ahead of time, it might be better to go for the option with instant delivery and no risk of damage in transit, right?
I know I mentioned this the other day in passing, when it was just an incredibly probable rumor I believe, but Borders(NYSE:BGP) is officially filing for Bankruptcy. As one might expect, they’re not about to just disappear, but it seems the Kindle is having its effect on the local book store ever more visibly.
The current plan appears to be a reorganization involving the closing of between 200 and 275 stores, thirty percent or more of the total chain, with the final number being dependent on what sort of concessions are able to be attained from the leaseholders on the 75 stores in limbo at this time. These 200+ stores are doing poorly enough right now that they are costing the company millions of dollars every week with little chance that number would have been able to turn around in the immediate future.
As much as it’s a bit disconcerting to get a reminder once again that the local book store you can just walk into whenever you want may soon be a memory, there’s a certain amount of irony in the reminder when you consider how recently people lamented the failure of the locally-owned book store in the face of big name megastores springing up all over the country. Borders was one of the driving forces behind that move and now they can’t keep up either. Something of a failure to adapt, perhaps.
What this means for your average Kindle fan or user is, perhaps unsurprisingly enough, not much. Borders has been a retailer for a number of eReader devices over the past few years, including the fairly popular Kobo eReader, and was in fact a big factor for a short time when they brought the Kobo to the US and provided the then-expensive Kindle with a competitively priced counterpart that could be seen right in a store. In spite of this, however, the Kobo is not and has never been a Borders controlled device or platform.
This may be the big factor in the Borders downfall, when it comes right down to it. Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) hasn’t been doing amazingly in the past few years, but their Nook has been nothing but helpful and the Nook Color has an impressive following. The Kindle is obviously not so much connected directly to any brick & mortar book store, but its widespread availability and the robust platform behind it has pretty much defined the eBook industry as we see it today. For Borders to think to get by in this newest stage of the book industry riding on the innovations and productions of other companies while offering little to no cohesive core to bind them all together may have been a bit unrealistic.
If you happen to find yourself near one of the Borders stores being shut down, be on the lookout for fliers and posters because it appears that there will be stock liquidation sales at any number of locations as the restructuring moves forward. Grab what you can while it’s there and cheap! Should you find yourself book store free following the closings, hopefully a Nook or Kindle will hold you over until something better comes along in your neighborhood.
These days there is a lot of talk about how, though it’s great that the Kindle is taking off and eBooks are becoming ubiquitous, it’s really a shame that the local bookseller is becoming a dying breed as a result. It is definitely a little bit sad to have so few options when you want to go out shopping. I miss the smaller stores. What brings all this to mind today is the news that Borders(NYSE:BGP) is filing Bankruptcy this week.
Now, admittedly you can’t call Borders a small retailer anymore, but that is how they started. The fact is, book stores in general just aren’t doing as well since websites, specifically Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN), became the go-to retailer for all your reading needs. As much as many stores, Borders in particular but others as well, try to diversify their product in addition to doing everything they can think of to attract readers, it’s hard to maintain the local face of a company in spite of declining sales. Even Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS), pretty much the big name in books for as long as I can remember, isn’t exactly doing as well for itself as it needs to be in spite of their efforts (and successes) with the Nook.
Given my own enthusiasms, I would like to give credit to the Kindle. It’s great hardware, has an impressive platform behind it, and the selection that we have available as a result is second to none. In many ways it’s like you’ve got a book store in your pocket, assuming you prefer garments with slightly over sized pockets.
Much as I’d like to place credit there, though, the trend began before the Kindle was more than a thought and a hope. Maybe not even that. This year is the first time the eBook is competing with the paperback on equal terms from the start, and it’s definitely the first time we can expect to see any comparable numbers between Kindle book sales and the print medium as a whole. eBooks are a big deal, but they’re just now realizing their potential.
What changed the game for the Brick & Mortar crowd, the way I see things, was the convenience and the successful marketing of the Amazon.com website. It wasn’t the first place to buy books online, but it has had a great selection from the start and the best selection anywhere since fairly soon after it got moving. Add in the functionality as a used book vendor, the inclusion of other media (and non-media) options besides books in the same purchase without there being any effect on your dedicated book browsing, and the decent review system that lets you improve your chances of getting the most for your money and there are options that no book store, small or large, has been able to keep up with.
So yeah, in a very real way I think that it is Amazon’s work that we see when book stores close down left and right. But they did it by giving people what they wanted and doing a better job than the stores that closed. Sure, I’ll miss being able to walk into a Borders when they’re gone (as most of them will be soon), but given the choice I know I’d rather shop through Amazon most of the time anyway. Apparently most people feel the same way.
Recent news indicates that Borders Group(NYSE:BGP) has filed an intent to purchase rival bookseller Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) as of this past Monday. Nothing is set in stone, as of yet, but this could have some interesting and far-reaching effects on the eReader and eBook marketplace should it some to pass. Borders has been trying for some time to enter into the Kindle dominated eReader market, but buying the company currently making the second most popular eReader on sale today (sometimes estimated to hold as much as 10% of the market) would give them some real hope of making a place for themselves.
While Borders did manage to make a big splash a while back by bringing the basic, but functional, Kobo eReader to the public for just $150 at a time when popular eBook readers such as the Kindle hadn’t managed to make it below $250 yet, the prompt price matching on the parts of Amazon and B&N left it somewhat dead in the water, so to speak. They also run into the problem of having no device integrated book store to draw from, complicating the process and reducing potential income from impulse buyers and people who use their computers infrequently. Yes, there is the fact that Borders chooses to host a whole collection of eBook Readers in their stores, but none have managed to capture public attention for any length of time lately, including the Sony Reader collection. Picking up the fully grown Nook product line would turn this around completely.
This cannot really be seen as a great move in terms of business unless you look specifically at the eBook marketplace, given the state of things right now. Let’s face it, neither Borders nor Barnes & Noble are doing that well as the last remaining brick & mortar bookstores with any real nationwide presence these days. While combining the companies might result in a short-term boost in revenue, since one aspect of the competition would indeed have been eliminated, the real fights these days are between either online and physical sales environment or paper and digital books. That’s to say nothing about the fact that B&N isn’t exactly without its own troubles right now that Borders would have to address.
So, if it happens, what can we hope for? It’s really rather hard to say. B&N does have a very nice eBook store set up, and I’m certain that that would see even more emphasis as time goes on, but competition is getting pretty extreme lately and newcomers like Google aren’t going to make it easy to stay near the top no matter what the state of the Barnes & Noble ownership is. I am rather hoping it doesn’t happen though, mostly because of the uncertainty of what would happen with the B&N stores. The Kindle is at the moment the superior eReader in pretty much every other way I care about, but it’s great to be able to break out the nook when I’m out shopping and have a chance to hang out there for a while since the preview feature makes for some great relaxation.
Borders has recently announced their plans to carry the newly updated Kobo eReader when it is released. Some of you may remember a few months back when the Kobo created quite a stir among the eReader competitors by being priced in the ludicrously low $150 range. It was light weight, had a decent screen and expandable memory, and if the page turns were a bit slow at least the price made up for it! Then, of course, both the nook and the Kindle matched or beat that price a couple weeks later and the Kobo seemingly dropped off the radar as anything significant.
Well, apparently the company is hoping to turn things around this time. Their newly updated release will be focusing on two things. Namely, fixing the page turn delay that was really the bane of every eReader when it first started out and adding a way to grab books for your device without looking for a wire. The faster processor being boasted about should increase page turn speed noticeably, while the WiFi antenna(WiFi only, not cellular) will allow users to connect to their digital library easily. While there is no indication that the screen has been upgraded to the newest eInk configuration(the demo video on the site would seem to indicate that it has not been), we’re still in pre-order stages and nobody actually has on in hand to say for sure. They have followed Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) example and released a dark-cased choice as well as a version with a pinkish backing on a white case. I’m sure that’s important to some people.
So, why would somebody want the new Kobo, especially with it being priced to match the much more functional Kindle WiFi? In spite of the many places where Kobo comes up short, there are some redeeming factors. The most important of these to many people will be international availability. The Kindle has traditionally been a little bit harder to get your hands on in some areas, but the Kobo will be marketed directly at Australia, New Zealand, the UK, etc. The use of an open eBook format rather than Amazon’s proprietary setup is also rather important, as is the expandable memory. Will that outweigh better battery life, larger selection, a thinner form, better screen, greater functionality, etc.? Probably not for many, but you never know. This might be just what some people are looking for.
Preorders are now being taken for the June 17th US release of the Kobo eReader through Borders.com (NYSE:BGP), and this is only the beginning of their increased association with eReading devices. In a move that apparently abandons their previous efforts at an eBook store through Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) distribution channels, Borders will be launching a Kobo-powered eBook store along with the release of the device. This store will service the obviously affiliated Kobo eReader, but also work with just about anything else you have handy to read on, in keeping with the Kobo store’s existing philosophy. Supported devices currently include just about everything but the Amazon Kindle, including but not limited to the B&N nook (NYSE:BKS) and the IREX DR-1000S.
The Kobo device will not be the only eReader technology being embraced by the Borders physical store presence, either. Beginning in August, we should be seeing what Borders is calling Area-e(TM) boutiques that highlight multiple devices at any given time including, most likely, the Sony Reader line and the upcoming Spring Design Alex eReader, both of which have existing ties to the company. Time will tell if this move secures the Borders Group a real place in the eBook market, but the additional exposure of less well known devices will certainly be a boon to consumers as they try to balance budgets against a plethora of options and features. So far, the nook and the Kindle seem to have a strong lead on the features and functionality in the market, but not everybody needs quite such a wide range of options in their device.
Kobo's service is currently online at kobobooks.com
Borders, in association with the Canadian publishing company called Kobo, has become the latest company to venture into the world of eBooks. This includes both reader devices and the selling of eBooks through an online store. Although a Borders spokesperson has clarified that Borders will not be involved in the reader devices and they might not carry the devices being developed at the moment. Borders thus constitutes a growing number of competitors for the Kindle and hence for Amazon’s burgeoning eBook business. Of course, it is no secret that the market is expected to explode sometime soon. So even though companies like these are late into the game, they are still entering the market at a nascent stage.
Sure, it would be pretty interesting to see what the devices are going to be like but Borders’ intention to make the platform completely open is even more interesting. It seems like the Borders and Kobo initiative will try to please as many people as they possibly can. And by that I mean that the service will support multiple devices and will be completely platform agnostic.
According to the Chief of Indigo Books & Music (the company behind Kobo), the idea is to free the user from obligations to only one device. Once they buy something from Kobo, they will be able to read it on their readers, their iPhones, their Blackberries and anywhere else that supports eBooks. The service will be based on the open ePub publishing standard, which is already supported in nearly every reader that is there in the market right now. They intend to offer free eBooks from the Internet, as well as paid for eBooks that will start from around $10. They are looking to target light readers who “buy a couple a books a year”.