Big news bubbling about Amazon's moves for Christmas, including the new Kindle Fire tablet and possible $99 Kindles, as well as a Touch Kindle. I'd never own a touch screen of any kind because I don't like greasy smears on my screen, but others like them. And I am not a techie by any means, I just want what works at a low price and doesn't give me headaches. IreaderReview is one of my favorite places to follow such Kindle developments.
But for readers and writers, the real issue is: What does this mean for ebooks? I've been predicting for about a year that Amazon will soon be bundling books into a "Netflix" model, where you get all the books you can eat for one monthly fee. Amazon already has the model in place, and they just announced new additions to its Prime offering. It's never really been a device war in the long term--iPad and Kindle never were direct competitors for the ereading audience. Just ask any author who has access to their sales numbers (and don't believe what you hear from publishing companies, who are still desperately trying to spin their Apple agency pricing as a win). People reading on iPads are using the Kindle or Nook apps. Apple maybe has 2 percent of the book market. Probably less.
The cheap Kindle will pretty much lock up Amazon's crown as the content king. At least for five years, which is eons in the technological era. Look how many different devices have come out in just the last three years. Yet Amazon continues to be the content king, with at least 70 percent of the ebook market. (Again, if you look at publisher data, publishers will claim BN has about 27 percent of the market, but their data is incredibly skewed--don't forget these two are joined at the hip through the physical bookstores.) And Amazon is rapidly expanding its world markets.
BN's problem is the weight of those physical bookstores. It's difficult to promote the Nook while still paying lip service to paper books and investing resources in managing the bookstores where books are an ever-lower percentage of their floor space. Kobo will be lucky to survive another year. Google is still freighted with its illegally scanned books, plus they don't really have a device out there. Sony will ride the Pottermore wave until those buyers realize they really don't have a very good bookstore selection after Harry Potter.
I don't know the pricing structure of the Prime books model. I only know it's coming. It's not only inevitable, I would be shocked if it didn't happen by next summer. Amazon has already been sending out feelers to publishers, and the Kindle library lending is a big step in mainstreaming ebooks. We still don't know how authors will be paid--presumably enough to keep writing, making less per book on a higher volume of sales. And Prime is a natural fit for rolling in advertising which means even lower prices for devices and ebooks.
Is it a win for everyone? It certainly is for Amazon. And I signed a book deal with Amazon, which is where I am putting my chips. What's funny is that BN was uniquely positioned to become a publisher a decade ago, and even put out a few books under its own imprint. And traditional publishers never built ebook stores where they could control their own catalog and peddle their own subscriptions. Probably it was the shortsightedness of having to show investors a nice return every three months.
Bottom line looks like: cheaper, faster, more. I don't know what the future holds, but I'm holding on for one hell of a wild ride!