One CEO's Take on E-Readers
F+W may have even more riding on e-readers than most.
As we anticipate the launch of Apple's iPad next week, it's worth taking a look at the current ereader - or as we like to call it Digital Book Reader - landscape from one publisher's perspective.
Just some quick notes on F+W Media:
--we sold 10.2 million books in 2009
--we have a backlist of approximately 3,500 books
--we publish on average 600 new books annually
-- 200 new books in the relationship, self-help, business, writing and memoir categories
-- 400 or more in illustrated categories such as art, craft, collectibles, numismatics
--we publish 35 magazines
Thus, we have a serious, vested interest in the e-book world, as well as the p-book world.
So where does the world stand today?
--Amazon: By far the dominant player in e-books, despite the limits of black-and-white publishing, and the skirmishes they've been engaged in with a number of the "Big Six" publishing houses. They tell us that they are selling more physical books today; in addition to the dominance they've shown in Kindle sales. It is also fascinating to watch as they launch an iPad application, and an iPhone application to compete in that realm as well.
It's a reminder that all technology merges at one point or another. In fact, there is a new application available for the iPhone called Line Two, which could eliminate AT&T's profitable iPhone business.
If Amazon is successful with its various "I" apps, combined with their dominant online bookstore, what does that mean for Steve Jobs' ambitions in the "ibook" industry?
--Apple: It's a bit surprising that the first edition of the iPad is only accepting epub files, which means no illustrated books in the first ibook store. To me, that seems to play into Amazon's hands, as the main difference between the Kindle and iPad, from a book perspective, is black and white versus color. Moving images, versus static.
We can assume that Apple will move in the direction of more flexible formats to allow for illustrated content, but it's certainly a disappointment that they are not launching that way.
Of course, there is usually a method to Apple's launch plans, marketing plans and new functionality plans - AND most reports say the device is now on backorder. Over 1m units are expected to be sold by year end.
Regardless, we all wait with bated breath for the new device, and F+W expects to have product in the ibook store soon.
--Google Edition: Ah, how can we forget the monster that ate all media? As Bezos and Jobs battle the publicity wars, Google quietly is building a "store" that will sell black and white, color, video books, audio enhanced - whatever can be conceived with a chip, will be in their store.
And add to that, the fact that Google Book Search already drives millions of search pages, millions of users looking for content... it's not a far leap to offering those searchers a buy button. And after purchasing, the reader will be able to download to their laptop, their iPhone, their iPad, their Apple TV, wherever they choose to read the book. Always keep an eye on for the sleeping giant.
No matter how the landscape changes, we at F+W will remain media-agnostic and delivery-agnostic. Our evergreen content is equally suited to p-books and e-books. We will continue to offer our content however, wherever, our customers and communities demand. As a company, are encouraged by, excited by, and most importantly fully engaged with these seemingly daily developments across the industry and look forward to what tomorrow will bring.
-- David Nussbaum is CEO of F+W Media, a Cincinnati, OH-based enthusiast media company.
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