Barnes and Noble is in the late stages of announcing the first e-reader they have produced in two years. The Nook Glowlight Plus will heavily compete against the Kindle Voyage and Kobo GLO HD in terms of overall specs and a solid price point.
The Nations largest bookseller has begun to make changes to their main website in order to gear up for the full product listing. Currently they have a placeholder section for the Nook Glowlight Plus, which is said to comprise of an e-Ink Carta screen and a resolution of 1430 x 1080 and 300 PPI.
Barnes and Noble has been biding their time for an announcement for the new e-Reader and they basically just wanted the internet fanfare to die down from all the new products that Apple and Amazon have produced in the last few weeks.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
The e-reader and consumer e-book industry has hit the proverbial glass ceiling in terms of sales. One of the segments that has been consistently on the upward trend has been libraries.
A recent report by the Library Journal has stated that 95% of all US libraries have an e-book collection. That's up from 89% in both 2013 and 2012, when researchers thought that adoption had plateaued for good. The average number of e-books carried was 20,244 by each library, but that of course was skewed toward large libraries. Medium sized libraries statistically had around 10,434 titles.
Over 10 different libraries in the US and Canada had over one million digital loans in 2014, with two libraries lending out two million e-Books. This number is poised to double in 2015 as Overdrive, 3M and Baker & Taylor gain more market share.
One of the greatest success stories of 2015 has been the rise of Hoopla has being a serious contender in the library space. They started out the year with only 13,000 titles and only a few hundred libraries were dealing with them. Hoopla now has an extensive collection of over 350,000 titles from companies like Disney, DC Comics, Universal Music, and Starz. Over 800 library systems are doing business with Hoopla, which service over 1,000,000 registered users! Hoopla is signing up 15 – 30 library systems every month and service between 1,400 – 3,000 new users every day!
The Hoopla business model is quite different from most other companies in the digital library space. They make their entire collection available and libraries only pay when a user borrows the title. Overdrive on the other hand sells each title individually. If you want 10 copies of an e-book, you better be prepared to pay the money in advance.
2015 has been very kind to Overdrive, the undisputed king of the digital library space. Back in March they were acquired by Rakuten, the owners of Kobo. They got a huge cash injection and will be expanding the empire into new markets. Overdrive has the largest footprint out of any company that markets digital content to libraries. They have a presence in almost all of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
Hadie Bartholomew, Communications Manager at Overdrive said “Every month we add thousands and thousands of titles to our catalog and recently added hundreds of thousands of Smashwords titles”
One of the keys to Overdrives success is that they are the only company to offer Kindle e-books. They have an exclusive agreement with Amazon to provide libraries with the ability to deliver books to Kindle e-readers and Fire tables. They also are very active in the international library scene and have a very active blog.
Baker and Taylor has also been experiencing tremendous growth over the course of 2015. Michael Bills, the Sales Director, Digital Products said “We have well over 2000 Axis 360 customers now and this is up from about 1200 a year ago. Our growth, and our expansion into Canada in partnership with Whitehots, is gaining traction as more libraries begin to realize the advantages of ordering print and digital formats at the same time from a single vendor.”
He went on to say “We continue to sign new supplier agreements, and broke the 1 million mark for e-Books available for library sale this year, along with an additional 50,000 digital audiobook titles. The number of users and circulation are growing year-over-year at existing accounts, and we also are seeing a surge of new patron activation since the release of the all-in-one Axis 360 app earlier this month.”
The 3M Cloud Library has been dramatically improving their catalog of e-books. In 2015 the company now has 587,562 titles in their system, whereas in 2014 they only had 419,358.
Heather McCormack is the Collection Development and Publisher Relations Manager at 3M. She told me “The most obvious signs of change for us in 2015 are overseas, in the UK and Australia, where we're signing publishers left and right, both Big Five subsidiaries and powerful indies (HarperCollins UK/AU, S. & S. UK/AU, Faber & Faber, Faber Factory, Canongate, Allen & Unwin). In the United States, W.W. Norton joined in August. That's the biggest news on our shores, really. When the American comics industry in the guise of DC and Marcel offers most of their catalogs to libraries in e, I think library patrons will have an excellent level of access. Not equal to print, but more than decent.”
The High Cost of e-books
The companies that are responsible for making sure digital content is available to all libraries are doing brisk business, but libraries budgets are being stretched thin. This is primarily because all of the major publishers have different revenue models, some e-books expire after a certain number of loans, whereas others cost dramatically more than the print edition.
Michael Connelly novel Burning Room costs $14.99 on Amazon, but libraries are paying $106.00 per copy. John Grisham's Grey Mountain costs $15.99 for a retail edition but costs libraries $85.00.
James Larue of the Douglas County Library system recently said "libraries and taxpayers who support libraries are being ripped off in ways that not only outrageously inflate the payment to publishers (surely their costs are not three times greater to provide the book to us than to the consumer), they also greatly reward distributors. The result? At a time when about half of our patrons use e-readers, we barely offer 10% of our collections to them in their preferred format. When does a vicious price become complicity between publisher and distributor, to the detriment of the public?"
The Digital Content Working Group co-chair Carolyn Anthony told members ALA officials were “continuing to dialogue with representatives from the Big Five publishers,” and that e-book pricing remained a major issue. “We generally believe that the current pricing models are not sustainable, and that libraries cannot develop collections of critical size if they’re paying $90 per title or re-buying titles every year,” Anthony said. However, she added, a number of independent and smaller publishers are proving “much more flexible on terms,” and “much more eager” to work with libraries. “That’s a very good sign,” Anthony said. “Maybe this is an avenue that will help us develop richer and deeper digital collections.”
Libraries are serving the needs of the community more than ever before. Every branch I have spoken with have told me that 2015 has been the most successful year ever, in terms of their growing collections and the number of checkouts.
"Demand for e-books continues to grow – in fact, it's our fastest growing area of circulation at Toronto Public Library with 3.5 million checkouts last year alone and this figure will double at the end of 2015" said Vickery Bowles , City Librarian at Toronto Public Library.
There are still major challenges facing libraries, such as the high cost of e-books and how to better showcase collections in apps and websites. Dispite all of this, 2015 has been the best year on record in terms of the companies that serve libraries and the number of checkouts for digital content.
|Amazon will start shipping their new Fire tablets early next week, including the ultra cheap $49 Fire. But what about new Kindles? Amazon hasn’t officially announced any new Kindle models for 2015 yet, other than the Paperwhite 3 that was released back in July, but it just got an upgraded screen so that can hardly […]|
The October issue of the official Raspberry Pi magazine has arrived in more stores than ever. Grab it in print or as a digital download and take on the ultimate weekend project for £50 / $75!
Highlights from #38:
UK & WORLDWIDE SUBSCRIPTIONS
CREATIVE COMMONS DOWNLOAD
Once more the amazing Mike Cook has put together another cracking Pi Bakery project for you to enjoy. This month it’s a particularly spooky Halloween project you can use to scare your friends and neighbours.
e-Reader adoption on a worldwide scale is still fairly strong, despite the fact that e-book sales on trending downwards. In 2014 over 12 million dedicated e-ink devices were sold, which is a far cry from 20 million units in 2011.
The e-Reader industry is in a holding pattern, as many of the key players are not investing in new technologies and simply issuing small incremental updates on a yearly basis.
When it comes to the e-reader playing field, the sector as drastically diminished in the last few years. Sony, the most notable casualty was one of the first mainstream e-readers in the world and they operated one of the most successful digital bookstores. They had a good run, but abandoned selling digital content and scraped making new models because of Amazon being able to out price them. Smaller companies such as Cool-ER, Entourage, iRex, Spring Design, Kyobo have also went bottom up.
One of the main reason the e-reader playing field is so small is because there is no competition anymore when it comes to e-paper innovation. There was some really promising technology that emulated the best aspects of e-ink, able to be viewed in direct sunlight and had a longer battery life. The companies in question were Pixel QI, LG and Bridgestone, but they all abandoned their e-paper ambitions a few years ago due the perceived lack of demand. Meanwhile, against all odds Plastic Logic is still in business, teetering on the edge of oblivion.
The undisputed market leader when it comes to e-paper innovation is e Ink Holdings, whom is based in Taiwan. The company basically monopolizes the industry industry and counts Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo has their primary customers. Many smaller players such as Icarus, Onyx Boox and Pocketbook all deal with E-Ink in order to get advice on EPD displays and what type of processors they should go with, depending on their budgets. Lower end devices often have Texas Instruments processors, while higher end models employ Freescale.
A few months ago E Ink and Netronix officially joined forces to become an all in one shop for e-reader design and manufacturing. If a company wants to have an e-reader made, they deal with E Ink the entire journey, instead of being passed off. This might be good for the industry, in terms of being able to do everything in one place, but at the same time could be considered anti-competitive.
In 2015 the e-reader industry only has only two global players and a handful of regional ones. Amazon has the largest market share and 75% of all e-books sold in the US stem from the Kindle bookstore, while in the UK the figure is closer to 95%. When Amazon announces new e-readers it is normally a big event, with hundreds of journalists in attendance that are personally invited by Amazon. You can tell the Seattle company is trying to emulate Apple, by handpicking a few chosen ones and excluding all other media.
The second major global player has to be Kobo. The company has been on an expanding rampage, trying to dominate markets before Amazon can swoop in. One of their biggest secrets to their success is getting their devices in bookstores, where their prospective customers are. Michael Tamblyn – President & Chief Content Officer of Kobo told me on a few occasions that they focus on bookstores because their product seems more organic and wholesome, instead of being sold at a big box retailer, where technology is often cold and impersonal.
What is an e-reader discussion without the Barnes and Noble Nook? They only sell e-readers, tablets and e-books in the United States and the UK. The company used run a Windows 8 reading app all over Europe, but has since abandoned it.
Barnes and Noble has lost money on the Nook aspect for the last four years straight. In total, they have lost over 1.2 billion dollars on having too much inventory and selling too few units. They thought they could solve this problem by contracting out the tablet design to Samsung. This partnership is destined to fail because there is no Nook branding on the tablets and there is no compelling reason to buy one.
Barnes and Noble tablets used to be very distinctive and customers spoke with their wallets. The Nook Color, Nook Tablet, Nook HD and Nook HD+ were certainly not “me too” products when they first came out. The operating system ran a customized version of Android and the bookseller borrowed a page out of Amazons playbook by crafting a very unique hardware and software experience. Many former customers have told me on many occasions that Nook has lost their edge due to shoddy hardware and a broken website that simply does not function.
There are only a handful of key regional players that have any sort of sales record and loyal customers. One of the most well known is Tolino, which comprises of an alliance of telecom and tech companies that wanted to develop e-readers and open a digital bookstore to prevent Amazon from dominating the German market. Netherlands based Icarus has a fond place in geeks hearts because they were one of the first ones to develop open Android based e-readers, that allow you to install apps just like you would on a smartphone and tablet. Pocketbook tends to dominate Eastern Europe and Russia and Onyx Boox is primarily focused on the Chinese market.
I have mentioned many times that the e-reader industry is stagnant and actively hindering innovation. This is primarily because companies such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo are in the race to the bottom. They want to sell products at the cheapest price possible and forgo critical features such as audio. Just look at the recent Kindle Basic Touch and Kobo Touch 2.0, both of these devices have an e-Ink Pearl screen, which came out in 2010!
There are only a few innovative things happening in the e-reader industry that might give people a reason to upgrade their old devices. One thing I am very bullish on is the new Freescale IMX 7 dual core processor. It was designed to improve upon existing technology and they worked in concert with e-Ink to power the next generation of e-paper.
Freescale told me during the product announcement that one of the prolific changes will be page refresh rates. The rate in which page turn speeds occur heavily depend upon the waveform that the e-Reader uses. The update times can range between 125 mSec – 500 mSec. By integrating the REGAL waveform support in hardware, Freescale are taking away any additional time that would be added due to Algorithm processing on the Cortex-A core, hence a savings of up to 150 mSec.
Solving the page turn program is a big step forward, but that's not the only thing that is being remedied with this new processor. Ghosting will also be solved with this framework, which is a huge deal. Normally with e-readers you will have a full page refresh every six pages or in some cases every chapter. The reason for this, is the longer the display goes without a full page refresh text gradually starts super imposing itself. I have never liked full page refreshes, as it breaks reading immersion. Now, this will also be fixed, which means less full page refreshes because again, its now hardware based, instead of software.
Likely the largest innovation in the IMX product line is the support for hardware dithering. This will allow e-reader companies that work with the Linux or Android platforms to be able to include animated content. This will include truly animated page turns, interactive menus and video. Freescale showed me somethings I can’t write about, but needless to say I saw fully streaming video on an e-reader and it looked awesome.
I am told that mass production on the new processors will begin in late October or November. This is likely why Amazon has not announced the Kindle Voyage 2 yet, nor Barnes and Noble Nook Glowlight 2.
The other major innovation has to do with Amazon and their purchase of Liquavista from Samsung. Nobody really knows anything about the color e-paper yet, although Amazon has been on a hiring rampage over the course of the last year trying to develop it. This is one of the few things I have no timeline on, nor what they are cooking up. If you want to learn more about Liquavista I talked to the lead engineer on the program when it was owned by Samsung, check it out.
You might think that e-reader sales are on a downward trend, and you are right. People are buying fewer devices now than they did in 2011, but there is a big reason for that. e-Readers are built with a singular purpose, to read digital books. The hardware is built to last, and I know plenty of people who are rocking 6 year old readers and are still very happy with them.
If you have a first generation iPhone, good luck trying to get any modern app to work on it correctly, ditto if you have an old Samsung Galaxy S1. e-Readers only read books and don’t have a slew of complex apps. The reading experience on a first generation Kindle in 2007 is not very different from a top of the line Kindle Voyage.
The reason why e-reader sales are down is because people aren’t upgrading them with the same feverish pace as they do smartphones and tablets. The old ones work great, and that’s OK!