Late to the eBook reader party, Barnes & Noble announced their plans Monday to offer some serious competition to the Kindle and Amazon’s eBook store, by partnering with Plastic Logic to sell their own reader early next year. Also in the works, book offerings from www.bn.com in multiple platforms: iPod, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows, and MacPCs, though not the Kindle or Sony reader.
Here are the highlights:
- Plastic Logic’s Reader is approximately the size of a standard sheet of paper (8.5″ x 11″) and uses the same type of e-ink technology as the Kindle.
- No price has yet been announced for the new device.
- Barnes & Noble claims it will have 700,000 eBook titles online at launch and thus be the world’s largest eBook store, but a caveat applies, as the 700K includes half a million public domain (older, historic) titles. They do expect to increase the total to one million within the year. No word on how many will be romance, of course.
- New releases and bestsellers on the site will be priced at $9.99.
- An upgraded version of the eReader application the company purchased last year from Fictionwise will support both wireless and wired downloads.
What does this mean for writers and readers of eBook romances? While the electronic format may not yet have been fully embraced by the Romance Writers of America®, or many traditional print publishers, the marketplace itself is clearly headed in that direction.
Here are a couple of possible scenarios:
One…A glut of new eBook readers on the market from Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Sony, and the numerous start-up companies working on their own readers, causes intense competition, and thus a drastic drop in the price of readers. This puts an eReader within reach of more consumers. eBook reader sales soar and those who own them demonstrate they are hungry for product (aka books to buy), thus publishers will need more of it to fill the void.
Though I’d like to say that this would mean more contracts for more writers—and it may—my feeling is that the status quo would largely remain. Traditional print publishes would simply nudge their current stable of print authors towards a larger electronic, smaller wood pulp footprint.
However, any time there’s a shift this large in business models, older, less nimble players tend to get shut out, while those ready to take on the new technology find ripe opportunities opening up for them. Romance writers who figure out how to adapt many not just endure, but prosper.
Two…A glut of new eBook readers on the market causes, that’s right, a glut of new eBook readers on the market. If the economy gets worse, or not enough consumers decide they like to read digitally, the market for eBooks sputters or becomes stagnant. One or two readers emerge as the winners, but the eBook market doesn’t take the same wild, heady ride that other media have enjoyed in the transition to digital. eBooks, as a format, continue to bump along in their own specialized niche, possibly still growing, but at a slow and steady pace.
Knowing the track record of most predictions, it’s possible, even likely, that a third, as yet unforeseen scenario develops. However, as Jane at Dear Author remarked today in a thought provoking mini-essay about the state of the romance industry, “books are the only form of entertainment that isn’t fully digital…[as readers] We want to be entertained and we want in now.”