It’s hard to deny that the growth and success of Amazon has had a huge impact on the book industry. The liquidation of Borders Books is just the latest evidence of that.
But other market moves by Amazon demonstrate that the company has set its sights on far more than just owning the traditional retail book and recorded music segments. The introduction of the Kindle e-reader and release of subsequent newer, cheaper models proves that Amazon seeks to dominate the “information” space no matter what form it takes.
Two recent developments show how this is continuing to happen. First, the company announced that it is launching a new public-library feature that gives the Kindle the same library-borrowing abilities as competing e-reader devices like the Nook offer.
Public libraries have taken notice of the announcement, because Kindle so dominates the e-reader market. According to Forrester Research, an estimated 7.5 million Kindles are being used in America; that’s about two-thirds of all e-readers in the country.
Already, large public library systems such as those in Chicago and New York offer free digital-book lending. A trip to the library is not needed. Instead, patrons simply use their library card ID numbers to download books from the library’s website.
As with conventional “paper and glue” books (I love that new term!), there are “lending periods” for e-books usually ranging 2-3 weeks. Libraries purchase the e-books from publishers as they do bound books, and only one borrower can check out an e-title at a time.
How are Amazon’s latest e-lending developments affecting book publishers? For one thing, e-books never wear out, which means publishers (and authors) can’t benefit from reorders of popular titles due to book wear. Partially for this reason, several major publishers such as Simon & Schuster and Macmillan don’t sell their digital works to libraries … yet.
Adam Rothberg, senior vice president and director of corporate communications at Simon & Schuster, commented, “We value libraries for their work of encouraging literacy and the habit of reading, but we haven’t yet found a business model we’re comfortable with.”
Another publisher, HarperCollins, decided to set a checkout limit for each title of 26 times, after which a library would need to repurchase the book in order to continue lending it out.
Not surprisingly, that policy has been greeted with hoots and catcalls by the library industry.
Regardless of the selling policies under consideration, one wonders how much longer the major publishers can continue to hold out, as the entry of market-dominant Kindle should significantly raise consumer demand for library e-titles.
And in another move that is sure to shake up another segment of the book world – educational textbooks – Amazon announced several weeks ago that it has opened up a “textbook store” for the Kindle platform. That store is already offering thousands of textbook titles for rental, with many more in the offing.
Here’s how it works: Amazon will allow buyers to acquire textbooks at a deep-discount off of the standard print pricing. The charge will be based on the amount of time the student plans to hold the book – with a minimum rental period of 30 days (which can be extended, if desired).
And to further sweeten the pot, borrowers will be able to access any “notes” and “highlights” they’ve made to their texts even after they’ve “returned” the textbooks.
I’ve blogged before about the college textbook publishing segment — a niche some see as an unholy alliance between book publishers and college bookstores that more resembles a “racket” than a fair business model.
Charging ridiculously high textbook prices along with releasing suspiciously frequent “updated” new editions that change perhaps 2% or less of a book’s content have been all too common.
Moves by Amazon – along with similar programs introduced by smaller providers like Chegg, Inkling and Kno – may finally usher in an end to the indefensibly high prices of textbooks that have long been the bane of students (and their parents). And no one is mourning that.
3 thoughts on “Amazon continues to push the envelope … while pushing books right off the table.”
I am informed by an academic that, according to some recent research, the problem with e-textbooks is this: it appears students retain far less from a digital page than from a printed one. I don’t know why this might be, but it appears to be the case.
[…] has had a huge impact on the book industry. The liquidation of Borders Books is just […] kindle – WordPress.com Search PHP FreelancerBookmark on DeliciousDigg this postRecommend on Facebookshare via RedditShare […]
And here’s more evidence the research cited by my academic friend has legs. From Mashable.com:
—If a new research report is correct, you’re better off printing this story out and reading it if you want to remember it.
A study by three doctoral candidates at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication found that print news readers remember “significantly more” than those who read news stories online. Print readers also remember “significantly more” topics than online readers, the report found. Print readers and online readers recall headlines equally well.
The three authors — Arthur Santana, Randall Livingstone and Yoon Cho — took a sample of 45 students. Of those, 25 read the paper edition of The New York Times and 20 read the newspaper exclusively online. The participants were asked to read each version of the paper for 20 minutes. Then they were quizzed on what they read.
The research paper offers a few possible reasons for the disparity: Online news “is ephemeral,” the report states. “It can appear and disappear without warning, thus creating an element of distraction.” Moreover, the layout of a paper newspaper gives readers an indication about which stories are thought to be more important. By contrast, “Online newspapers are apt to give fewer cues about the news story’s importance, thus giving readers more control over story selection.”