eBooks volume 3: What is the right price for a device that holds 100s of books?

eBooks volume 3: What is the right price for a device that holds 100s of books?

Summary: Over the past couple weeks, I've been conducting polls about ebooks as I think about doing some publishing. The overwhelming response to the polls has been that there is not a sufficiently broad selection of books available in e-formats, regardless of what format, whether for Amazon's Kindle, the Sony Reader or in open formats, such as ePUB, an XML-based format.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware
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Over the past couple weeks, I've been conducting polls about ebooks as I think about doing some publishing. The overwhelming response to the polls has been that there is not a sufficiently broad selection of books available in e-formats, regardless of what format, whether for Amazon's Kindle, the Sony Reader or in open formats, such as ePUB, an XML-based format.

With all due respect to the people who have been posting that there aren't enough ebooks available to choose from and that the readers (whether devices or software that runs on a computer or handset) are not worth the expense, the evidence doesn't support that contention. This is a market that is developing along recognizable patterns. The issue is whether there will be more flexibility and useful features in ebooks or whether they will perpetuate the same limited use that we have in, for example, digital movies. Freedom to copy and share are only one aspect of the improvements available to customers in ebooks—the ability to cite, deep-link to specific pages of books one doesn't own but which are referenced in a book one does own, as well as the ability to annotate and expand on the text for our own or shared use, are also on the line.

First, the data from the previous polls suggests that more than enough book buying is going on to propel the market toward viable competition with the paper books market. And the second poll suggests that there are certain types of titles, specifically magazines and newspapers, that could be "bridge" titles that, if they were available in convenient e-formats that let customers rid themselves of piles of paper each month. More magazines and newspapers are turning to online (and there is a further poll question on content formats coming), so the market does appear to be coalescing.

Second, the number of ebooks, though still a moderate fraction of the total books published each year, the total number of titles available in eformats is approaching the number in the best-stocked Barnes & Noble, which has between 60,000 and 200,000 titles in stock. There are 145,000 titles available for Kindle and the Sony Reader catalog has announced support for the ePUB format, which will give its users access to several hundred thousand titles. As CommanderROR wrote at MobileRead.com today:

I have not pirated an ebook for a long time, there is no need anymore, I have not bought a pbook for a long time either (if it's not available as ebook I don't read it...that'll teach the narrow-minded publishers...) and I'm a happy, fully-converted ebook lover.

The question to ask now, is what the optimal price, from the reader's perspective, might be. I completely understand the urge to have ebooks on existing devices, because no one wants to carry more gadgets around. At the same time, the electrophoretic display E Ink echnology in the Kindle and Sony Reader is far easier on the eyes over any long session of reading, so there is a case to be made for a device that eliminates screen flicker entirely from the reading experience.

The benefits of a truly great ebook reader will not be simply the display of words or pictures on a page, as I noted above. Without getting into the ways we might reuse content from a book (for instance, to display a digital picture from a book in our home or to share excerpts with friends online), what is the reader worth to you?

So, let's assume, for argument's sake, that there is a device necessary, even if it is a component of the handset you already own in the form of a reader application. If so, what is the right price for you to buy a reader for the first time? If you bought at or near one of these price points, answer with that—if you are going to hold out for a price, tell us what it is.

[poll id=19]

Topics: Mobility, Hardware

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8 comments
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  • Thanks for asking.

    Everybody is talking about eBook readers, but nobody is asking what the market will pay for them.

    I love the Kindle, but I think it's a bit expensive, and your poll results show that I'm not alone.

    Let the cost of the content subsidize the cost of the device. When that happens, and the device hits $100 or less, you'll have a winner in the eBook wars.
    aGorilla
  • RE: eBooks volume 3: What is the right price for a device that holds 100s of books?

    [i]Let the cost of the content subsidize the cost of the device. [/i]

    I really don't like that idea. The best ebook reader is idependent of the ebook seller. I like Sony's model with ePub support better than Amazon's Kindle only model. In time the prices will fall as the components become cheaper.

    $149 should be cheap enough.
    MarkLR
  • RE: eBooks volume 3: What is the right price for a device that holds 100s of books?

    There is no reason you cannot read ebooks from a good used tablet PC or laptop. Those devices have far more functionality than the Kindle and can be had for about the same price. Those devices can also handle multiple types of readers, so you are not bound by one format. Personally, I think that all magazines and books should be offered in some electronic format, and at a discount from the printed versions. I think Amazon is going to lose big as there are much better alternatives than a stand alone and proprietary ebook reader.
    M.M.Grimes
  • Clarification

    There aren't enough books I want to read available in e-format.

    And a dedicated ebook reader isn't going to get mass appeal until
    it is as portable and easy to use as a paper back.

    The sweet spot price: $50.
    frgough
  • RE: eBooks volume 3: What is the right price for a device that holds 100s of books?

    Why should I pay for books at all when my tax-supported library is just down the street, and could get almost any book I would ever want through inter-library loans?
    aep528
  • RE: eBooks volume 3: What is the right price for a device that holds 100s of books?

    $ 99 is the price I am willing to pay..
    Thanks for asking
    Himsndhu.Gupta
  • cant read books on a laptop screen

    i have read 6-7 full length novels on my desktop and laptop , and trust me the experiance was not good, even after trying all sorts of changes like reducing the screen brightness and using a light grey or diffrent coloured backgrounds for the texts, i still couldnt read for long hours. after barely 45min - 1 hr of reading i will get too tired and had to relay on text to speech softwares (i use ReadPlease 2003 free edition) to keep going. this is so not the same as curling up into the bed with your latest juicy novel. long live paper. although i must admit i havent tried eink paper technology yet.
    only_moin@...
  • RE: eBooks volume 3: What is the right price for a device that holds 100s of books?

    Do we really need to have 100 books in memory? I seldom read more than three at anyone time and that's only when I become bored with the subject matter. Secondly, there are not many books I care to reread and those, that important or interesting, are in print and relegated to a shelf.
    Make the memory smaller if it effects the cost and aim for under $100.
    noodles168