Borders today re-launched its website featuring enhanced social features and partnerships to improve the Borders revamped digital strategy. According to a study by the National Retail Federation, 44 percent of consumers plan to make some portion of their holiday purchases online. Borders recently announced a new textbook rental service through a partnership with Chegg.com, with access to millions of textbook titles.
Amazon, Borders, Barnes and Noble and independent booksellers like Powell’s Books in Portland are facing specialized printers such as the Expresso Book Machine, made by OnDemandBooks is now able to spit a paperback in 4 minutes and for about $8.
Soon, the best managed bookstores, even modest ones, will be able to rent such machine for the price of a large photocopier.
A new breeds of ebook writers, designers, editors and marketers are forming around tablets and e-books. But the ability to tell an original story, to edit a journalistic investigation will remain essential. Multimedia may acquire a new importance. Marketing will require a presence on social media, as traditional publishers focus more on blockbusters.
A recent survey conducted by Bain and Co listed eight obstacles in the way of widespread ebook adoption. They conclude that ooks won’t go away any time soon. Respondents who have adopted digital formats say they continue to read printed books. This attachment to paper also holds for younger generations, even though they were born in the digital era.
But a majority of consumers are willing to pay for eBooks. Close to 70 per cent of those with devices stated that they purchase the majority of their eBooks.
The press’s business model has already been disrupted. Consumers today expect free information. Nearly 90 per cent of those the research firm surveyed only read free news content online. For those with digital tablets, only 10 per cent say they would pay for news.
Digital distribution will have an economic impact on traditional publishers, especially as prices plummet. Publishers must also scramble to develop products and services for online readers. Current examples include Vook.com, which offers short videos that accompany novels. Leezam.com, sells novellas and short stories for mobile devices. A complement of online offerings is another tactic.
The New York Times will publish e-book best-seller lists in fiction and nonfiction beginning early next year.
The ePub format — an open eBook standard — expands the number of possible readers. It’s designed for reflowable content, meaning that the text display can be optimized for different display sizes. According to Wikipedia, one criticism of EPUB is that, while good for text-centric books, it may be unsuitable for publications which require precise layout or specialized formatting.
While ePub will loose most of the font control and page formatting, it may allow faster, easier exporting to a variety of e-readers. A number of software tools are designed for making EPUB books, such as Adobe’s InDesign, but Apple’s $79 iWork application is considerably cheaper.
EPUB eBooks are usable on many different eReaders including the Apple iPad, dedicated gadgets such as the Sony Reader and smart phones like the iPhone and Android. Other eReaders include the ibis Online Reader, and Adobe Digital Editions.
Unfortunately, Amazon’s Kindle lacks EPUB support. Amazon uses their own AZW and DRM for content sold on their store.
Unprotected AZW files can be renamed with a .prc or .mobi extension and they will be able to be read on the MobiPocket Reader. Protected DRM files cannot be used on the MobiPocket Reader. The Kindle can only use AZW files for protected content but can read MobiPocket files for unprotected content, with or without the AZW extension. Amazon has developed an .epub to .mobi converter called KindleGen. DRM is independent of eBook formats.
Penguin Books sees ebooks hitting 10 percent of book sales next year (it’s currently four percent in the U.S.). Forester says 14% of Americans — 27 million people – plan on purchasing a tablet device next year. A similar study by the Magazine Publishers of America found that nearly 60 percent of U.S. consumers expect to purchase an e-reader or tablet within the next three years.
According to Forrester’s five-year forecast for eBooks in the U.S., 2010 will end with a total of $966 million in eBook sales. It’s expected to triple, with $3 billion in sales by 2015. At that point the industry will be forever altered, says the study’s author.
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