It’s been a while since we’ve got it together to post a Monday Ebooks, and as usual the ebook world has moved so quickly we’ve missed a lot.
We wanted to point out that Barnes & Noble is giving away copies of its B&N Classics editions ebooks all summer, 12 each week, complete with introduction and notes as in the paper book. This week’s selection includes several Jane Austen novels. They switch out on Sunday, so if you want them, make sure you download them soon. You don’t need a device to read the books–you can get the B&N Reader software for your PC or smartphone.
As far as the devices go, the two biggest ebook/hardware providers, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, are engaging in a price war. B&N lowered the price of its nook reader to $199, providing a second, wifi-only model for $149. Amazon responded by lowering the price of Kindle to $189, and recently introduced a new, sleeker, lighter Kindle at the same price and a wifi-only model at $139. A $99 device, perhaps from Kobo or Sony, can’t be too far behind.
The press is trumpeting that this means the second- and third-tier sellers that few have heard of will fall by the wayside. This strikes us as a particularly American-centric viewpoint. Russia is a huge ebook market, and Pocketbook is selling thousands of devices there as well as in Europe and even the U.S. (we confess to drooling a bit over the Pocketbook 360—look at that case isn’t it darling squeeee!) Asia is another huge market, and Hanlin and Netronix are producing OEM devices for the lesser-known companies such as Astak, Bebook and Bookeen–great devices, especially for those who like to play with their electronic toys a bit, but they are currently not really competing on price in the U.S. Kindle and nook are top of the heap. Kindle is cheaper, has more and cheaper ebooks, but nook is more open–you can buy books from other bookstores and borrow ebooks from public libraries that use Overdrive, which is most of them in the U.S. (the Editrix’s county libraries just got ebooks–squeee!). In either case, they are designed to get the purchaser to stick to that company’s particular ecosystem, which is just good business.
One of the most exciting things about the new Kindle model is the Pearl eInk screen, which has better contrast and is therefore easier to read. We are assuming that the new screen will trickle out to the other sellers, and probably won’t upgrade our current device, an Astak EZReader Pocket Pro, until it does. Exciting times are ahead!