It’s been a good and bad year for ebooks. Not only did ereader sales double in the last year, but the sale of digital content (including ebooks) spiked. As a NookColor owner, I was very excited about all this. And then I kept looking into e-book news. Despite the good fortune the industry had last year, it’s seems like things are taking a turn for the worse in 2012.
I finally took my head out of my textbooks and realized Amazon now has its own publishing house, aptly named Amazon Publishing. While this seems like a a potential next step for a business whose bread and butter is book sales, most other booksellers aren’t looking upon this favorably. Amazon is not necessarily playing fair – they won’t allow other booksellers to profit off of the e-book version of their publications. And thus there’s a boycott. Amazon publishing is really only a small fraction of the e-book pie, but if it grows like Amazon, it could mean that a lot of non-Kindle owners will be left out of a lot of quality reading.
Besides the battle taking place between sellers, many book publishing companies are fighting Overdrive, the only platform that allows libraries to lend out e-books. It seems that not only are publishers worrying about the limitless feasibility of lending rights, but they are also frowning upon the new closeness between Amazon and Overdrive. Amazon, who not too long ago did not add Overdrive compatibility to its devices, now seems to be using Overdrive as a gateway to its site rather than libraries for rentals on Kindle.
Basically, Amazon has been rather devious recently. While I’m all for publishers and booksellers defending their rights I can’t help but wonder where this leaves the e-reader? Obviously the current format will lean heavily on purchasing but at some point people are going to have to figure out how to let libraries lend out books to people who aren’t ready to make a big enough commitment to purchasing from an untested author or series. This may change if the price of e-books go down but that seems the least likely route (although to me it makes plenty of sense. The amount of piracy for digital content would probably drop tremendously if the prices weren’t so high for something that could be endlessly copied. It should be a price people are willing to pay rather than jump through hoops to figure out how to get something for free. Anyways, this is a rant for another blog post.) Either way, publishers and booksellers will have to settle all their disputes with Amazon at some point. And despite anti-trust concerns, someone will have to figure out an equitable consensus on how to distribute e-books. Just like someone will have to throw people in a room to figure out this whole digital piracy mess once and for all.
I want 2012 to be as promising for the e-book industry as 2011. There are definitely going to be kinks in the system, but the in action chosen isn’t a long term solution. Until then, maybe I’ll just ditch my Nook and go back to reading good ‘ol print books.
- Amazon’s Kindle Plays A Part In Penguin’s Library Decision (moconews.net)
- Amazon Publishing bookshop boycott grows (guardian.co.uk)