Why Random House won’t be on the iPad

iPad running iBooks.You might have noticed that one major publisher is missing from the list of iPad adopters: Random House. You might think it’s because it doesn’t believe in the platform, or it has some dispute with Apple. None of the above. As the Financial Times has it, it’s because Random House doesn’t want to get into an ebook price war.

So let’s get this straight. To avoid a price war, the publisher is willing to stay with a company who requires a fixed price of $9.99? A company all the other publishers are glad to get away from? A company that is so desperate to keep publishers that it threatens to remove their goods from its store if those publishers don’t comply?

Yes. Apparently that. Granted, Apple’s model could potentially mean less profit per book for publishers because of the 30 percent cut it takes. It will make up for that, potentially, by giving publishers a little more control over their pricing and theoretically increasing the reach of ebooks. For the full story, head over to the Financial Times.

Reading Material: The iPad rocks for content creators

iPad with iBooks.There’s been a lot of talk about the iPad and its potential to revolutionize the publishing industry. I’ve never really bought it, though I couldn’t always say why. I didn’t think the new form would really encourage publishers to change all that much. Penguin proved me wrong in its discussion of new iPad content, but even Penguin didn’t completely sway me. This article by a book designer named Craig Mod did.

Craig’s whole point is that the iPad not only offers something new, it offers something very old – the experience of reading an actual book. His position is that the iPad preserves the book by more realistically allowing publishers to port their published form, books, onto a new device. The Kindle could only approximate things with its black and white display. By contrast (wink, wink), the iPad’s full color gives publishers the tools they’ve always had for creating rich content experiences. The arrival of links and what we now consider “content-rich” experiences are just icing on the cake.

His article offers a long and winding history of designing books and the kind of thought that goes into a reading experience. It’s worth reading for anyone interested in the future of the written word and/or a passion for creating consumable content.

Source: @craigmod

Amazon tries to stay competitive with Apple, will need a new device

Steve Jobs in a chair with the iPad.The day Apple announced the iPad, Amazon was calling newspapers and publishers before Steve Jobs had even left the stage. As the New York Times’ Bits blog has it, Amazon wanted to hear what Apple had offered. Amazon had been trying for more than a month to sign deals with publishers that would give Amazon customers the best prices anywhere, either by matching or beating the prices given to other dealers.

Amazon tried to sweeten the deal by offering publishers bigger revenues than in the past. Unfortunately, Apple was willing to budge on a much larger issue: price. With Apple, publishers had a bit more flexibility than Amazon would give, which in turn gave publishers bargaining power over Amazon. See, Amazon will do just about anything to stay competitive with Apple.

In fairness to Amazon, it’s not like publishers want to upset that distribution channel. Amazon pretty much pioneered the ebook scene – it certainly made ebooks as popular as they were likely to become before some sort of wonder device came along – which leaves publishers keen to cater to the existing subscribers in Amazon’s marketplace until either the iPad gains enough ground or Amazon releases a new reader.

That last point is very important. If Amazon doesn’t release a new reader within the next year or so, it will pigeonhole itself into becoming solely a content provider, a position I wouldn’t think Bezos wants to be in considering he started the Kindle. Rarely would a company of Amazon’s scale introduce a middling product only to do away with it in a couple years.

Source: Bits

Kindle heads to Blackberry

Blackberry gets Kindle.Amazon is starting to see the writing on the wall, it seems. There isn’t a compelling reason for people to buy a Kindle anymore. Other ereaders offer the same price on books with more features and the latest wave of tablet PCs make the hardware look obsolete. So what does Bezos do? He releases a Kindle app for yet another piece of hardware: the Blackberry.

Amazon recently opened the floodgates with Kindle support for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Windows machines. Today we get Blackberry support and the company says it’s headed for Macs and iPads next. If that doesn’t sound like admitted defeat, I don’t know what does. It’s funny too, considering the publisher problems Amazon has had since the iPad announcement.

“Since the launch of our popular Kindle for iPhone app last year, customers have been asking us to bring a similar experience to the BlackBerry, and we are thrilled to make it available today,” said Amazon’s Kindle VP, Ian Freed. There is at least one difference between the two; the Blackberry version doesn’t support creating annotations from within the app.

Official Site

Apple may have more ebook control than we think

iBook Store on the iPad.An article in the New York Times today suggests Apple may have a little more control over low ebook prices than initially thought. Publishers were turning to Apple and its iPad to save them from the clutches of Amazon and the $9.99 Kindle price point. While Apple does offer more flexible pricing options, it has also made provisions for lowering the prices of the most popular books, back to that $9.99 figure the publishers so hate.

The Times cites “at least three people with knowledge of the discussions,” as the source for the news. It’s not just bestsellers, either. Apple expects publishers to reflect discounted book prices, books sold below the typical $26 hard cover price, in their ebook pricing as well, regardless of bestseller status.

This has to make you wonder what really had the publishers upset with Amazon. Obviously they’re aware of the things Apple laid out in its contract, so what’s the issue? Do they just want some extra income from less popular titles? Are there other Amazon policies that turn publishers away or is it really just a lack of flexibility?

Nook is back in stock with free shipping

Barnes and Noble Nook.Barnes & Noble has finally gotten its Nook production to catch up with consumer demand, and it’s just in time for Valentine’s Day. The company is using the holiday of love to help market its Kindle competitor, throwing in some extra goodies just in case you weren’t already sold on the device.

When you order you’ll get access to the “More in Store” content from Barnes & Noble, which includes a short story from Adriana Trigiani, a red velvet cupcake recipe by Anne Byrn, aka Cake Mix Doctor, and access to a regular feature called “Read Between the Wines,” which is about pairing your books with your vintage of choice.

If you order online your Nook will be shipped for free. If you prefer the in-store experience, the device will be available starting February 10th.

Source: Engadget

2010: tablets over ereaders

Apple tablet?Everyone’s saying it. I’m jumping on board. Whatever your feelings about tablets – they should exist, they shouldn’t, they’re pointless, they’re great – there’s no denying the potential market impact of a quality tablet. Quality is the key factor here. Much like ereaders, which no one cared about until the Kindle came around, tablets need a frontrunner, something to rally around and aspire to beat. My bet, like so many others, is on the Apple tablet.

It’s not just that I trust Apple, which I do, but that the market is so ripe for a Apple created device. The world has fallen in love with the iPhone and the iPod Touch, the App Store continues to grow at alarming rates, and everyone is imitating multi-touch wherever it makes sense and in plenty of places it doesn’t. Imagine your iPod Touch on ‘roids, powerful enough to run 1080p video, do some simple editing, and wirelessly post to YouTube. Did I mention you can surf the web and read your ebooks? How much would you pay for a device like that? $500? $600? More?

Amazon and Barnes & Noble don’t think the consumer’s financial tolerance is so high. I do. I think people would be willing to spend as much as a grand on an Apple tablet because it could potentially do everything I mentioned above. In the face of that kind of device, the Kindle starts to look a lot like the Peek, specializing in a service handled just as well, if not better, by a more versatile device.

The one thing that could stall tablets for another year is premature release. Everyone knows the tablet is the next big thing, but if it gets rushed, consumers could see the failed device as a reason to buy an ereader. Wait until the tablet people get it right before diving in.

What do you think? Is this the beginning of the end for ereaders? Will they still have their place in the market? Can they get cheap enough to stay relevant?

Classic authors fight for their ebook rights

Styron's Sophie's Choice.The NY Times published an interesting article today that details the struggle between classic authors and their respective publishing houses for ebook rights. The article is focused on William Styron, author of great books like Sophie’s Choice and Darkness Visible and his family’s struggle to maintain rights to the digital versions of those books.

It’s not that no one saw ebooks coming. They did. In fact, most titles published after 1994 have the rights for ebooks laid out in full detail. But there were a whole lot of books published before 1994, Styron’s books among them. As much as Styron’s family may want control of those titles for the digital age, the publishers are doing everything they legally can to maintain control. Random House recently sent out letters to authors and literary agents claiming control of the works, arguing that ebooks fall under the same category as books, so the rights extend to digital works.

It gets messier from there. In 2002 a judge in Manhattan ruled in the authors’ favor, but that’s probably not going to stop big publishing. In the mean time Styron’s family, like many others, have turned to third parties with the rights, trying to get things published before publishing houses can get a hold of the work.

Source: New York Times

Nook ship date pushed back again

Barnes and Noble.Either the Nook is set to become more popular than the Kindle or Barnes & Noble is having very serious trouble with manufacturing the device. This morning the bookseller changed the next ship date available for its ereader to January 15th, up from January 11th.

For those of you who have already pre-ordered, it’s no big deal. Existing ship dates should not be effected. Anything from here forward, though, will be subject to the new date. It’s not terribly unsettling news, but it does make you wonder just what sort of further delays to expect. People are already waiting on pre-orders that were placed shortly after the device was announced.

By far the worst part, if you were hoping to catch a Nook in stores, is that no in-store purchases will be available. Barnes & Noble has committed itself to fulfilling the pre-orders that have already been placed. How very…noble.

The CrunchPad is dead

The CrunchPad is no more.Less than a month after claiming the CrunchPad was “steamrolling” toward production, Michael Arrington has pronounced his web tablet dead. Apparently there was a serious fallout with the manufacturer. Serious as in the manufacturer is going to try to sell the device itself. Without Arrington. Potentially under the CrunchPad moniker.

This is about as spectacular as device wars get. You can imagine Arrington is pissed, and bound to be throwing around any lawsuit he can think up. He writes this about the email he received from Fusion Garage, the company set to manufacture the web tablet.

Bizarrely, we were being notified that we were no longer involved with the project. Our project. Chandra said that based on pressure from his shareholders he had decided to move forward and sell the device directly through Fusion Garage, without our involvement.

Err, what? This is the equivalent of Foxconn, who build the iPhone, notifiying Apple a couple of days before launch that they’d be moving ahead and selling the iPhone directly without any involvement from Apple.

The rest of Arrington’s post on the subject is appropriately distressed. I’m still amazed Fusion Garage would try to pull this off, particularly two days before the product was set for a public launch. For more detail on the drama, head over to to TechCrunch and offer Arrington your condolences.

Source: TechCrunch