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Reading Electronically

So I did this sort of weird thing the other day. I picked up this printed thing, held it in my hands, opened it and began reading words off the page. The printed page. Wow, I thought. This must be a book.

Yep, it turns out publishers are still printing books in spite of an electronic world that clearly moved beyond the print media eons ago. In fact, last year, they printed over 250,000 books, and amazingly, Stuart Woods and Joyce Carol Oates didn’t write all of them. Truly, we live in a remarkable age.

The thought about printed books arises with some recent news about the electronic version. Specifically, the American Booksellers Association, the trade organization for most of the independent bookstores in this country, has signed an agreement with Kobo of Canada to sell its e-readers and e-books in ABA-connected stores. That Kobo is the same e-reader that Borders was selling before it declared bankruptcy and gave up the book business last year. I never heard too much good about Kobo because it seemed a bit awkward to use compared to Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle, but it’s a whole new world these days, so maybe things are looking up for Kobo.

That would certainly be a good thing for independent booksellers, who have been looking up at Amazon for a long time when it comes to selling e-books. And Kobo has desperately needed a new American market since the demise of Borders. Maybe a good marriage? The challenge for booksellers and for Kobo, of course, will be to find enough customers who want the product.

The iPad’s virtues are well known, and the Kindle dominates the e-book market. Amazon, in fact, just introduced a new Kindle Fire to challenge the iPad (good luck there) and some new cheaper, improved e-readers that will likely have a big impact on the market beginning next month. And then there’s the Nook, the e-reader sold by Barnes and Noble, the biggest bookstore standing. B&N has been hustling those Nooks for a while now and their sales apparently have leveled off a bit in recent months. So you have to wonder will there be a place for the new Kobo?

Count me among those who have no clue. The digital era moves too quickly for me to risk forecasts, but it is quite clear that Apple and Amazon are very formidable companies and will be doing everything possible to stay at the top of their respective heaps. So, I’m left to wish good luck to friends at the independent bookstores and to hope that this deal struck by the ABA will pay some dividends. The book business is a tricky place to test your business acumen thee days.

One Response to “Reading Electronically”

  1. James Piper Says:

    You’re looking at the issue strictly from the US point of view. E-books and readers is a global market. Amazon is not dominate in all markets. Kobo is strong in Canada, UK, Australia etc. They have a parent company who wants to crush Amazon and has to the cash to do it. Billions.

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