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You may be wondering how to reach the best audience  if you have a downloadable ebook for sale. Gone are the days of a wide-open eReader market. With the older standby PDFs still a viable format, and more recently the iPad, and of course the market-share-king, Kindle for PC and iPhone (as well as the more expensive Kindle), the competition is fierce. So which ebook format is the one you should invest your limited time and budget on as an author and publisher?  

Let’s look at some of the newest first:  

iPad gets kudos for flash and style, but plugging back in for a download of purchases pales next to Kindle’s free worldwide satellite-powered Whispernet service. Sure the iPad may be more of a personal accessory like the iPhone and the iPod before that, but for now it seems less likely to get critical acclaim from readers and current Kindle users. Perhaps its more salient selling point is going to be in terms of style. Who knows, this gadget may evolve into the excuse that makes reading actually cool again with those who previously only played video games and read micro-works via blogs and rapid-fire Tweets. But how soon will the iPad had significant market share or overcome the negative press coverage it has rather unexpectedly garnered?  

The uber-sleek iPad, from Apple

 

Mobipocket(.com) is another less known ebook vendor and format out there. Partnered early on with Amazon (it is actually an Amazon company), you’d think they would have had more sizzle, but the site just never really took off in terms of branding and polished image. Mobipocket works on just about any smartphone or PDA in existence, but as just noted, their marketing is less than forceful. Consequently, your book may not sell on that format for quite a long time if you start “small”. It’s better to go straight for a bigger outlet like Amazon that has already long been engaged with smaller authors and publishers.  

ClickBank(.com) is another such outlet with small overall reach and a somewhat poorly managed affiliate program with too little visibility and energy to effectively create meaningful sales. After selling hundreds of copies in the first 3 months on Amazon Kindle, while trying to figure out the system, ClickBank sells zilch in the same period. Mobipocket didn’t fare that significantly better.  

Kindle DX

The pragmatic Kindle DX

 

After surveying a great many out there, Kindle is the dream format in many respects (especially read from the Kindle DX).  Not only is the site more popular and thus more heavily converting than any other out there, but it works with other vendors to provide more reach. So you can usually find not only your ebook of choice for whatever format you need (Kindle, PC and iPhone or same format smartphone), but you can also take advantage of Amazon’s customer service policies. As a publisher, customer service is handled for you. As an author, you can rest knowing that your readers (the people supporting you) are being taken care of. Everyone is cozy and happy. And best of all, there is room for the competition to rise. Rumor has it that iPad is actually going to pay their publishers a larger take on their works, but is no small thing for a publisher or the self-published author.  

Amazon(.com) is the most visible player in this market, no question. And the reasons are many: books, daily/weekly/monthly newspapers and magazines, specialty blogs and other special online content abound. No matter what you write or publish, Amazon has figured out a way to make it easy to consume and become a fan of, and that’s great news for those who compete with much bigger authors and publishers. While there are numerous other fledgling sites out there trying to become viable, none ultimately compare to the visibility and trust-worthiness of Amazon(.com), or for the reasonableness of their payment terms. While the Amazon cut is considerably high (two thirds!), the sales and visibility are infinitely better. Moreover, the book you purchase on Kindle is selected, purchased and downloaded right from your Kindle at the touch of one button. How can you compete with that? Clearly newer players will arise who will figure out how to add value to that proposition, but for now the playing field is not so level. How can you sell a book that isn’t visible, or on a site that you don’t trust? Some things are about trust. Social media. Who to call your sweetie. Your lunch-break buddy. And, of course, the activity which comes to define the person more than the person: shopping for worthwhile reads.  

But watch out Kindle, iPad is coming on strong with the come on. They may just clean your clock if you let them get a running start. Afterall, a beautiful iPad will attract the attention of the tragically hip and the aesthetically-inclined. A pretty Apple gadget is often the next big conquest for young tech-savvy consumers. And after all, these are the people who brought us the virus-free Mac, the trend-setting iPod, the Mac Air, and the wildly ubiquitous iPhone.  

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Comments
  1. techFoil says:

    True it is. Even if iPad gives a better cut, Kindle is already the standard at this point in ereaders. I doubt iPad will catch up this year, when people were expecting the iPad to walk on water, and it simply doesn’t. My books are selling on Kindle. I’ll be interested to see how iPad and their authors fare,

    • Mark Brimm says:

      Good points! Keep in mind I’m not at all doubtful that Apple is going to demonstrate the iPad’s competitive potential. I am, in fact, a huge Apple fan and would like nothing more. But I prefer to root for the winning team and for competition in innovation. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. JJmedia says:

    Love this new turn to tech and authorial concerns. Would love to see more!

  3. WalkerMedia says:

    While I agree that Kindle is the choice for now, I also agree that the iPad is quickly running after touching ground and may surpise everyone. The heated criticism the iPad has received can only make it stronger. Kindle didn’t get this kind of heat, and maybe that’s why though first in capturing market share, they have been slowest possibly to evolve over time.

    • Mark Brimm says:

      So true. One thing about Steve Jobs is that he certainly understands the value of failure, less like his Amazon counterpart in Jeff Bezos. That may indeed prove to be Apple’s defining strength and what pushes the iPad to break through.

  4. ThinkingFox says:

    Interesting post Mark.

    First,some background : I read books. Boy, do I read books, a lot of books. My house is drowning in them, and I read them quickly too which means I have an ever increasing collection, and it means when I travel (and I travel quite a bit) I have to take a supply with me or buy more there and ship them back. The mainstreaming on ereaders got me excited a while ago, finally there seemed to be a solution for me… except there wasn’t… they all had something wrong with them, typical of all first-gen breakthroughs.

    Then along came Kindle and the Sony and I started to look seriously at them. Weirdly I’ll drop a couple of hundred pounds on a blackjack table but am fussy about spending the same money on tech, especially when that tech may be obsolete in a few months (don’t ask, it’s a childhood thing). I was torn between the two platforms. I loved the look of the Sony but it didn’t quite fit in my hands comfortably, the Kindle seemed great, loved the global wifi books on demand but hated the DRM, and I remember wishing that the next-gen would be touch screen… navigating around on the Kindle seemed clunky, nothing I could put my finger on but still, clunky.

    Of course everyone started talking about the mythical Apple tablet and so I decided to wait, just in case, I mean you never know right?

    so here we are, Steve Jobs showcased iBooks and the iPad last week and I wanted to rush over there and shake his hand.. it’s not perfect, and yes the Kindle seems to still have an edge, but I DON’T CARE… I’m getting an iPad, I’ll sign up for iBooks, and I’ll never consider an alternative again… there, I’ve said it. I feel like I’ve just come out and admitted I’m an Apple fan boy or something and maybe I am.

    The Kindle is great but….. the iPad is cool.

    All that aside, IMHO Bezos won’t take the threat lying down so expect to see some advances to both the Amazon ebook offering and some new stuff on the Kindle. Apple will leverage the consumer demand for coolness and will no doubt command the consumer high ground. Perhaps that’s how this will play out… iPad for normal people, Kindle for people who take their ereading seriously.

    It may also be worth noting that I was on the Eurostar last night from Paris to London. Sitting opposite me was a guy with a Kindle. I asked him what he thought of it and yes he loved it… But he’s still getting rid of it in 90 days and replacing it with an iPad.

    • Mark Brimm says:

      Thanks for the comment and the thoughtful insights, ThinkingFox. I think they really hit at the crux of the dilemma. Kindle was never quite as cool as many hip cafe readers would have liked. I think readers fall somewhere in between Starbucks (or the local home-grown equivalent of a bakery with good coffee and tea) and the blogosphere inter-web-world of technology and Twitter and Foursquare from your iPhone. The iPhone has established itself as a branding ambassador for Apple every bit as much as a personal accessory, just as the iPod and the Mac before it, so now we expect to be able to root for Apple. I, too, would like to see how the new iPad fits perfectly into my life in a way that the Kindle never would. I still won’t be giving up my e-ink and satellite-instant purchases and downloads, but I want to want the IPad based upon branding even before knowing more inside details. As they leak out, it seems Apple is coping on the fly and evolving before first release. In the end I stand with both sides, so long as Apple makes this thing the next “I’ve always needed this!”…but I’ll still be downloading and reading books instantly from the Kindle. I think in the end that the iPad being pitched as a competitor for the Kindle was a deceptive move. Being an eReader is not going to be its strength. It’s something new most likely that will fit our lives in a different way, like how many people still use a Palm Pilot because they need to organize all their thoughts and plans. The need to take a side however seems to be a benchmark in the success of the branding campaign. I love it! Apple IS the best when it comes to branding their technology. I am going to probably get one even though I will stick with Kindle for reading books. Well played, Apple. Well played.

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