Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Digital Books, Kindle and the Death of Bookstores



Do you have an eBook reader yet, like the Kindle, Nook, and other such variations? If not, then I suggest you get one soon. Most smartphones now have apps that allow you to read ebooks, those are great ebook readers too. Let me tell why you should get an ebook reader.

Eversince Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com launched his Kindle in 2007, ushering the era of ebooks and ebook publishing, the ebook phenomenon has skyrocketed. The Kindle has proved to be Amazon's now best-selling product, such that other companies had launched their own ebook readers - like the Nook for example by Barnes&Noble, and Kobo by Borders.

Jeff Bezos: Amazon and his Kindle
If you will recall, Amazon.com made its money initially and mostly from selling books online and delivering them to customers in a fast and efficient process. Amazon was one of the most successful web company that was able to get people comfortable with buying stuff online; selling books - made of good ol' fashioned paper - was its cash cow. Why would it invest in developing a pioneering product like an ebook reader - a product that would directly compete with its own book sales? Seems counter-intuitive right? In January 2011, Amazon reported that for the first time, digital books or ebooks were outselling their paper-and-print counterparts. In May 2011, they also revealed that in 2010, they sold more ebooks than print books.

“Our vision is every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.”

THAT is Jeff Bezos' Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for coming up with the Kindle. By any measure, it is truly a huge goal. To come up with such a goal, and esp. a product like the Kindle, one has to be a true visionary. And no doubt, Jeff Bezos is one: He saw a future where all books could be easily accessible. To get there, he needed a device like the Kindle.

Carbon Footprints and Going Green
And it all makes sense. Apart from the increasing penchant for doing everything digitally, there is also the global trend of making products that have lesser environmental impacts. Switching to paperless books is the inevitable direction to take if we are to truly adapt green practices. Trees are saved. Energy that would have been used in the printing and delivery of paper-based books are conserved. Carbon footprint - the new buzzword of the green revolution is minimized.

Self-Publishing and Indie Authors
Consequently, there has been a steady rise of ebook authors as well, or veteran authors who now launch ebook versions of their books. And it's no longer just big names who can have their book published. Self-publishing is now very possible, as ebooks can be made easily from word documents to pdf files and converted to all the other ebook formats to make it suit the different ebook readers. And even Amazon now allows anybody to have their ebooks listed via Amazon. Publishing is now democratized, the same way iTunes of Apple has allowed music publishing democratic by allowing any composer, singer or band to sell their music (in mp3 or aac formats) via iTunes. No more need for big publishing houses or record companies before you can put your material out there. And the results for self-publishers have been very encouraging (read: lucrative), to the point that a number of them are now being signed up by traditional publishers too. (Google: Amanda Hocking)

Amazon: Death of Bookstores Foretold
I would guess that when Bezos saw how well books were selling via his Amazon.com, he already saw the potential of web stores in competing and obliterating his brick-and-mortar counterparts. And with the Kindle, he went a step further as he also will go against book publishers in effect. The result: Bookstore sales have been on a steady decline as more and more people are not only buying their books online but also buying books in digital format. Barnes&Noble tried to fight this off, even getting into developing their own ebook reader (the Nook) to stave off falling profits from sale of regular books. Because of this, they have survived; Borders - another U.S. bookstore - was not as lucky. It filed for bankruptcy in February 2011 and is slated to close down 200 stores.

Other benefits of eBooks
Books are great friends, wonderful companions, and are very very important to our intellectual growth (or even for simple brainless entertainment). BUT - they also take up so much space, gather dust, and get quite heavy in time (that is, if you have at least 5 boxes of them).

They also represent plenty of dead trees.

Much as the smell and texture of paper has become part of our reading experience, switching to ebooks is not only a step forward, but also answers a lot of problems.

As such, it is the way to go.



Book Recommendations:
Amazon.com: Get Big Fast
One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com
Kindle, Wi-Fi, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl Technology - includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers
Kindle Free for All: How to Get Millions of Free Kindle Books and Other Free Content With or Without an Amazon Kindle

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