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OPLIN 4cast #378: E-reader woes

Posted in 4cast

e-reader app iconsLibraries should probably be happy that they are not in the e-reader hardware business. While libraries have plenty of issues when it comes to ebooks themselves, at least they’re not losing money trying to sell dedicated e-reader devices, which seems to be happening more frequently to some big-name companies. With e-reader apps on other computing devices taking more and more of the market share, we’re beginning to see some consequences for the dedicated e-reader device industry.

  • Sony exits the North American ebook business and gives its customers to Kobo (GigaOM/Laura Hazard Owen)  “In addition, Kobo’s Android app ‘will be pre-loaded on select Sony Xperia smartphones and tablets,’ according to Sony’s official announcement, released in conjunction with its quarterly earnings. […] The news isn’t much of a surprise since Sony had said last fall it wouldn’t bother selling its new e-reader in North America, citing ‘the region’s market changes’ (i.e., competition from Amazon and, to a lesser extent, Barnes & Noble and Kobo).”
  • Commentary – If I was in charge of the Sony e-reader or Reader store (Good E-Reader/Michael Kozlowski)  “When the company first started releasing e-readers they basically had no competition. Within four years they had hundreds of competitors, and they were caught unprepared for how fast the industry had grown in the few short years. In the past, Sony would always release three new e-readers a year and for the last three years has only issued one.”
  • Microsoft and Nook redo their agreement; no Microsoft e-reader in the works (ZDNet/Mary Jo Foley)  “It is rather confusingly named ‘Microsoft Consumer Reader.’ This is not a dedicated e-reader, I hear from my sources. […] Instead, I think this is just the name for one of Microsoft’s coming e-reading apps. There seem to be at least two of these apps in the works. The Microsoft Office Reader app, which company officials showed off last year at an employee meeting, will provide users with access to digital content, PDFs and textbooks, according to leaks. The Xbox team also is believed to be readying a reading app. It’s not clear whether this is the same or different from the Office Reader.”
  • Undeterred by failing Nook, Barnes & Noble will launch new model this year (Ars Technica/Cyrus Farivar)  “Despite the fact that Nook sales plummeted by 66 percent during the 2013 holiday season, struggling book retailer Barnes & Noble isn’t giving up on its e-reader. In fact, the company will be putting more effort into its e-reader in the near future. In its latest quarterly earnings report, company CEO Michael P. Huseby announced Barnes & Noble would unveil a new Nook device in the coming months.”

Contrary fact:
While sales of some e-readers have been weak, the percentage of adults that have dedicated e-readers went from 24% last September to 32% after the holidays, according to January survey data.