There’s been lots of big news in the publishing industry in the last week or so, much of it relating to new technology and how publishers are adjusting (or not) their models of doing business.  Much about Apple’s new iPad device and Amazon vs. Macmillan has been discussed in other forums and covered in the news, but a few thoughts from this end of things…

iPad

I was thrilled to see Apple was committing its new iBooks store to the epub format, which publishers are truly pushing to become the standard. But my elation was short-lived when Jane at DearAuthor reported that it seems as though the epub file will still have to be tied to an Apple device.  More and more, it seems ebook retailers are segmenting the market instead of uniting it. They’re making ebooks more difficult instead of easier for readers to try out.  As a reader myself, I want to know that the book I’m buying today, I’ll still be able to enjoy in 10 years, no matter what new devices are out. 

Beyond the iBooks format issue, I, like many, was a bit underwhelmed at the “revolutionary” new device.  I had been expecting something that acted like a netbook but in tablet form.  Instead, we got an overgrown iPod Touch.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love my Touch, and I believe I won’t be replacing it with an iPad anytime soon.

Amazon and ebooks

Publishers and ebook retailers still have a long way to go in figuring out pricing for ebooks, as evidenced by this weekend’s showdown between Amazon and Macmillan. But I have to admit that I have a hard time feeling too much sympathy for the publishers who don’t think they can make money for a product that sells for less than $9.99.  Obviously, the mass-market business model thrives on it.  Then again, we also plan for it. 

If $9.99 ebooks released simultaneously with $25.99 hardcovers become the norm, publishers are going to have to adjust for it in their breakevens.  And ultimately that’s going to affect what the authors are being paid in advance and royalty.

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Yesterday’s big news was all about the reveal of Amazon’s new Kindle, which boasts a longer battery life, more user-friendly (user-friendlier?) design, bigger internal storage and the possibility of future compatibility with mobile devices such as the iPhone.  A lot of folks are psyched, and understandably so.  According to GalleyCat, Kindle editions represent about 10% of Amazon’s sales of books where both Kindle and print are available.  And I think that will keep growing.

However, I have to say I’m disappointed that Kindle 2.0 doesn’t have the capacity to read the epub format.  Publishers have been working really hard to standardize the ebook model–both to save money doing all the conversion and to simplify the process for readers hesitant to jump into e-reading until the format wars are solved.  But this new Kindle doesn’t promote any of that.

It’s frustrating to think about spending so much money for a device ($359 for the Kindle, $399 for the Sony 700) just knowing that in a year or two there will likely be an upgrade–a better, faster, stronger model that will render yours suddenly not as cool.  In some cases–because publishing still hasn’t broken one way or another about format–it could render the device useless.  I can certainly see why a lot of everyday readers are reluctant to jump into the market.