Monday, January 30, 2012


"There is always a bigger fish"

Qui-Gon Jin

Did you happen from the New York Times ,on Sunday, that explored the uphill battle that chain book stores are having trying to find their profitable place?

Considering how mnay thousands of small independent bookstores were pulverized and driven out of business by Chapters and Barnes & Noble, it seems just fair that they are all locked iinto a fight for their lives in the new digital era. Are they doomed to become digital coffee shops?

The big fish this time is the very future of books. How they are bought, sold, distributed, published and read. The E-book is here to stay. The days of bookstores and newsstands are numbered. I doubt there will be a time when you can not purchase books but hard copies will go the way of 8-tracks & vinyl records.

The fate of Barnes & Nobile, the last of the major book chains in the United States,  is very much on the minds of the big publishers like Macmillan, Penguin and Random House. 

Julie Brown examines the battle plans as the fate of American book publishing hangs in the balance.

In the article detailing Barnes & Noble's battle with Amazon, the battle for supremacy over e-readers and the technology the choose is really interesting.. With sales of e-readers from Sony Kobos to Barnes & Nobile's Nook going through the ceiling over Christmas, the impact on traditional bookstores is just begging to be felt. People are buying e-books this Winter, passing up on traditional paper formats. The Tipping Point has been reached.

Barnes & Noble unveiled its $249 Nook Tablet in November, around the same time that rival Amazon started selling its $199 Kindle Fire. Amazon said it sold more than 4 million Kindle devices during December, and one analyst estimated this week that Amazon sold 6 million Kindle Fire tablets during the fourth quarter.

This means people have gotten over the hump..the upfront costs and learning new technology.  Ebooks are no longer a niche market, they are the market.  Ebooks have significant advantages over physical books - infinite portability & storage, to name only two.

The fight for a dominant format will be interesting. Already, I am faced with which format I want to use when reading on my iPad: There is the ,azw for the Kindle; BBeB (.lrx) for Sony media; EPUB; .pdb; .mobi; PDF and a dozen others. All offering various degrees of annotation, bookmarking, video, interactive support, images and sound. EPUB is like the MP3  because it is the most semi-universal of the lot.

The idea of an open ebook format that works on any reader sounds nice. Buy it from any source, read it on any device. The industry is in its infancy and the battle for a standard or open source will be like the battle between formats like VCR vs BETA and  Blue Ray vs HD DVD. Companies were made and broken trying to win paramountcy and become the standard.

Can Barnes and Nobie unseat Amazon? Will they go broke trying? Or is there a bigger fish lurking that might swallow them all? Someone who can offer the buyer the flexibility, interactivity and reading experience that ensures the publishers Digital Rights Management is protected?

Time will tell, one thing is for sure the industry is turning pages and clipping through the chapters.

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