I had to write this post after reading all the headlines on Twitter about Barnes and Noble’s ebookstore presenting real competition for the Amazon Kindle. It’s not and here’s why.
First, BN’s ebookstore is simply that, a store. There is no device. Kindle captured the burgeoning ebook crowd not because it simply provided books in digital but because there was a bookstore tied to a device that made purchasing so simple you could explain it to your mom or your five year old.
Second, BN has no such device and there are no plans to release such a device until 2010. 2010 is a long way off. The fabled Apple tablet may have come by then. The PixelQi netbook that has a dual screen (eink like and straight LCD) may have captured the attention of the market. 2010 is eons away in technological time. Further, there is no confirmation that BN will even sell the device. Instead, the news is that BN will be the exclusive content provider of digital books for the Plastic Logic device. Have you seen the Plastic Logic device? It’s big which means expensive (the Kindle Dx cost $449) and unweildy.
Third, BN price matching Amazon gives people no incentive to leave Amazon if they are already customers there. Without a matching device, how many existing customers are going to suddenly start reading on their iPhones or laptops who are not already ebook readers? Certainly not enough to challenge Amazon’s domination. People who are already ebook readers understand that there are a plethora of stores and price matching opportunities out there.
Fourth, BN’s inflated book count of 700,000 includes over 500,000 public domain books fed by Google Book. Of the remaining books, BN.com’s ebook store has the worst content availability. This morning is the release of Meredith Duran’s ebooks, Bound by Your Touch and Written on Your Skin. Neither books are available at BN.com. Both are on sale at Fictionwise.com, BooksonBoard.com, and Amazon. BN is not even winning the simple content game.
Fifth, BN promises multiformats but will be wrapping those formats in it’s own DRM. BN promises that its books WON’T be compatible with the Sony Reader or the Kindle. Just what we readers need and want.
BN brought nothing new to the game. It’s offering eReader format which are already available at ereader.com or fictionwise.com, both vendors offering customer rewards programs that BN is not. It’s not a leap to say that these two sites, owned by BN, will be totally subsumed into the BN.com ebook site, but until that time, there is no incentive for a reader to leave eReader.com or Fictionwise.com.
The roll out of BN.com’s ebookstore brings nothing new. It’s not a Kindle killer. It’s barely competition for the existing ebook stores out there. Frankly, it was aweak rollout. If this is the understanding of the market that BN has in its upper management, it will be nothing but a failure.