22 July 2009

Kindle Killer?

There's been a lot of news lately surrounding "Big Brother" Amazon and its wildly successful Kindle. Recalling e-books afer purchase? Consumers were refunded, but it definitely rocked the boat when they couldn't find a replacement for some of the titles.

Plastic Logic, based in Mountain View, California, is making the eReader, available in 2010, that hopes to compete with Amazon's Kindle. Guess who partnered with them? None other than the world's largest book store chain, Barnes & Noble. Four months ago, Barnes & Noble aquired the e-book retailer Fictionwise and is now starting its own massive e-bookstore on its website, BN.com. In an announcement Monday, B&N stated that over 700,000 books would be offered and available to be read on a variety of today's popular devices including the BlackBerry, iPhone, various desktop and laptop computers. Before the aquisition, Fictionwise offered over 600,000 books in its catalogue.

Some good news, for now, is that over 500,000 of the e-books offered on BN.com can be downloaded for free! How? Well, through an agreement with Google to provide e-versions of public domain books that they have scanned from university libraries.

How many books are offered for the Kindle device? Ah yes, 330,000. Oh, and Google's public domain collection? It can't be read on a Kindle. Barnes & Noble is going for the throat.

According to some though, BN.com isn't likely to dent Amazon.com's Kindle sales.
"I don't think they will be stealing market share from Amazon," said Sarah Rotman Epps, a media analyst with Forrest Research. "If anything I think they are contributing to the whole growth of the category of digital reading."
Yes, more consumers will be reading on their mobile devices, and it makes sense to market to those readers, as opposed to zeroing in on consumers buying dedicated reading devices, like the Kindle. But who is providing the content available to both a dedicated device as well as other mobile devices? BN.com.

What about pricing? As for the device itself, Plastic Logic has their lips sealed. As for the content, the $9.99 charge that has become the de-facto new and bestseller e-book price set by Amazon.com for Kindle sales will remain the same, according to William J. Lynch, president of Barnes&Noble.com.

Pricing is a huge deal, in e-book sales. Pulishers don't want to be undercut sales of hardcover editions -- which average a hefty $26. Erosion of publisher margins = unhappy people.
“The pricing policies won’t remain static,” Mr. Lynch said in an interview. “We’re working with our publishers on various pricing models. As the pricing model evolves over time, we will adjust.”
The concern of publishers' MVP titles being sold at "mass market paperback prices" is strong, says David Young, chief executive of the Hachette Book Group. This coming from the publister who pumps out books by Stephanie Meyer and James Patterson. It's still a valid concern though.

Personally, I think BN.com should offer "library model" pricing. Offer the e-books for 1/10 of the paperback pricing for a limited time, say a month. After that, you can either pay 3/4 of the paperback price, or delete it and owe nothing. I think it could be popular, and drive sales as well as e-book volume up. At the least, it would make this battle amusing.

So, now that that's out of the way, on to the tasty part of this: the device. (Queue sexy music.)

(image via Plastic Logic)

Nicely targeted at the business user, as well as the personal user, the eReader is 8.5 by 11 inch letter-sized, extremely thin at 1/4 inch with a full touch, glare- and eye-strain free plastic screen sporting the latest EInk technology. One flick of your flinger to turn a page. Small side menu on the left that pops out to reveal a toolbar and on the right, tabs for recently read books and documents. Wi-fi and 3G connectivity.

Wait, 3G connectivity? What is this magic you speak of? It was announced today that the mobile broadband connection on the device will be provided by AT&T's network. This could be a debate in itself (I won't go there), with the heat that AT&T takes, but in reality these devices will be using such a small amount of the network. What's intriguing is wi-fi access. I could see the 3G as being very useful if you don't have access to a hotspot.

Will Barnes & Noble be able to pull ahead in this race despite the Kindle's head start? Will the recent Amazon.com e-book blunder and pulisher gouging tarnish their reputation enough to aid Barnes & Noble? Who knows! Things just got more interesting though.

19 July 2009

I don't Digg it.

UPDATE:

So, I just watched an interview with Kevin Rose, Digg co-founder, on live.twit.tv with Leo Laporte.

(Laporte gives Rose the background)
Laporte: Is that true?
Rose: That’s a good question.
Laporte: You don’t know?
Rose: I’ve been gone for 2 weeks so I don’t know what got pushed, what code got pushed and how it functions but my last understanding is that what we wanted to do is have it so that if you click on a Digg URL it takes you to the Digg stories so you can Digg it. Rather than providing a short URL service that just forwards and does redirection we would just do a URL service just for Digg articles. Just like the same way that Techcrunch does “techcrunch slash 85374″ – if you go to that you’re not going to go to some other site you’re going to go to techcrunch. That’s the story.
Laporte: So you’re backing off on the original idea which is a general URL shortening service…
Rose: Correct.


My question is this: If they intended on doing this to Diggbar, why was there no post on it, no indication on their intentions to change Diggbar from a general URL shortening service to one that is exclusively for Digg articles? I'm not debating the usefulness of an exclusive Digg shortener, in fact, it can be very useful if that's what you're aiming for. On the contrary, I'm questioning how Digg went about all of this. It makes them look shady.

------------------------------------------------

As many of you on Twitter have seen, link shorteners are key in this 140 character world. A popular choice of shortener is through the Diggbar. A great concept: integrating a traffic counter along with the link shortener in the convenience of a single bar at the top of your browser! Sounds great, right? Sure, publishers jumped at the chance to increase traffic to their content, up Digg counts, and have a simple way to post the content in a Twitter update.

A few days ago, I noticed that the Diggbar links I clicked on in Tweets ended up at a Digg.com landing page. I had to click on a second link on the cluttered page to get to where I wanted to go in the first place. Did I want to land there? No! I wanted to land right on top of the content! This irked me.

Working As Intended?

Apparently it's confirmed that this is NOT an error. Anyone logged out of Digg, or those people not members of the site will be sent to the Digg landing page.

Hi from Digg,

Thank you for writing to us about this matter. This is working as intended. Please let us know if you have any feedback or have additional questions we can assist you with.

Digg Support

From Digg's point of view, I suppose they thought this would bring something good for them, but, seriously? Way to hijack. You're welcome for the traffic push and ad revenue, Digg.

What Now?

Thanks to my friend Matt Rogers at primatage.co.uk for this update:

Nick Halstead, CEO of TweetMeme, commented on the Mashable post that:

From TweetMeme’s point of view if this stays the same way we will be forced to remove it from our whitelist of shorteners, as by definition this no longer makes Digg a shortening service. We included Digg.com because we felt the addition allowed users the ability to gain extra traction along with the shortening support.

TweetMeme is a site that compiles all of the hottest links on Twitter and is used by some hard-hitting social networkers, blogs, and sites, including Mashable. Losing that support is crucial, and I don't need to mention the extreme amount of boycotting going on in the Twittersphere.

Well hey now, congrats Diggbar, you are now the illegitimate child of Digg. I can hear Jay Adelson's facepalm from here.