Friday, July 25, 2008

BPN 1169 e-Book lands in the UK in September

Well, it is finally happening in the UK: the large-scale introduction of e-readers and e-books. The bookstore chain Waterstone and Sony are taking pre-launch orders for the e-reader of 199 pounds (232 euro) to be launched in September. Will the combination of a bookstore and a consumer electronics giant make an impression on the UK market? Does the combination fulfil the conditions for the iPod syndrome: innovative hardware, a large portfolio, easy access to a fast download service, a reasonable price and does the combination have an innovative image.

Hardware: Sony will sell the 2006 model PRS 505 e-reader, which weighs 260 grams, can hold 160 e–books, has a battery life of 6.800 page turns. It sells in the US for 299 dollars. The model has the dimensions of a printed paperback. The action of Waterstone and Sony is a pre-emptive strike to grab market share. Book distributor Borders has announced to introduce the non-wireless iLiad of 399 pounds (465 euro). And the Kindle of Amazon still hangs above the market; the Kindle costs in the States 359 dollars, which would make it the cheapest e-reader for 155 pounds (210 euro).

Portfolio: Waterstone and Sony have not announced which portfolio they use. The buyers will receive a free CD with 100 classic e-books. Recently trade publishers have been falling over themselves to get in on the e-book act. Penguin, Random House Macmillan, HarperCollins and even Harlequin have all made announcements. I had expected that Penguin would have been in on the deal with its 5.000 e-books. But of course the problem will be the publishing format. Penguin is using the .epub format, a format already adopted by Hachette Group USA. HarperCollins is expected to go the same route. And Sony has announced that it will support the .epub format (Sony writes the format as .ePub); that is quite a change from a closed format Sony has used since the launch of its first e-redaer in 1991. Borders and the iLiad adhere to the Mobipocket format. Amazon and Kindle list more than 40.000 titles.

Download service: Sony has already a download service in operation. Thousands of eBookscan be downloaded at from early September 2008 onwards.

A reasonable price: for the iPod the price per song was important and turned out to be reasonable in the end; in fact downloaders started to realise that they could legally download against a reasonable price. In the e-book sector illegal downloading is less a problem as in music. Yet if there is not a price difference between the printed copy and the e-book, it will not really work.

Innovative image: Apple is the promoter of the innovative products iPod and iPhone. Waterstone and Sony is not the most exciting combination; the combination Waterstone, Sony and Penguin would have made a super combination. The team Borders and iRex Technologies is not a real winner either. Amazon is of course a winner, but the UK publishing industry does not want to hand itself over to the Moloch, which could create a monopoly on e-books.

Blog Posting Number: 1169

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