Kindle Singles have been something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. They occupy a strange space in the eBook marketplace. While there’s obviously a place for good short fiction in any library, perhaps even more so now that Kindles make it so simple to index large collections, we run into issues of perceived value in book purchasing. So I guess the question is that of what role this category fills going forward.
Theoretically, this is an ideal place to open up a set of texts that your average reader might not have had access to previously. Not many things make it to printing in the 5,000 to 30,000 word range, traditionally, unless they happen to make it into an anthology of some sort. One problem that I’m seeing, however, is that these less extensive works have a bit of trouble edging into the field of view of your average eBook reader.
You’ve got thousands of freebies on the one side, including hundreds of the best books ever written historically and at least as many new writers trying to break into the marketplace by offering at least first volumes without charge, and on the other there are successful authors making amazing work and selling it for anywhere from $0.99 – $2.99 through Amazon. We all live in a world where you have to get the most for your money. Now, clearly it is hard to quantify the value of a book. There are far too many variables to narrow it down in any way and the value for one person might well be completely different from that for another. What do we have to compare with? The number of stars in a review and the number of pages in the text are basically the only applicable quantities. The question about the applicability of ratings is best left for another time. The inherent subjectivity and bias in the existing system have come up before and will again. Page numbers are a matter of real concern though.
Objectively, I know that good writing can be found in any number of styles and lengths. There’s no reason that $2 spent on a Kindle Single wouldn’t be better spent than on a similarly well reviewed Kindle Edition from any other category in the store. There’s this little voice in the back of my head when I think about it, however, that reminds me that even if it’s great, the book will be over far too soon. As such, I’m pushed back toward traditional length works. Definitely a dilemma.
For the moment, Kindle Singles are focused on Journalism, Biography, and various other things that can best be presented in their relative completeness without using too many words. There’s so much potential in the short fiction market though. I just have no idea how to bring it to the table in a competitive way when larger-scale works are going so cheaply. Anybody have a decent take on this that they’ve seen somewhere or come up with on their own? Even aware as I am of the problems of equating quantity with quality, this is something I’m having trouble wrapping my head around.
In the past week or so we have seen price drops on the two most full-featured and well-stocked eReader devices on the market today, as well as the first exclusively WiFi adaptation of one of these devices at the lowest price seen to date. So, where does this leave the Kobo, the Borders-sponsored budget eReader that made such a stir over the past several months with its $150 asking price? The outlook is not so good.
By all accounts, and i make no claim to have the device in my hands at the moment to confirm, the Kobo eReader is a bit of a let-down for a lot of people. A decent screen, slightly slow response time, clunky menu navigation, and just generally unexciting experience. I won’t deny that the Bluetooth capability is intriguing, but they simply didn’t do much with it. Now that the Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) nook has dropped its price to match without sacrificing the reading and shopping experiences and Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has followed suit with an even cheaper Kindle, it seems doubtful that the Kobo will find itself with much of a place aside from die-hard lovers of the Borders and Kobo bookstores. Even some of those may find themselves turning away, as the Kobo store, at least, offers their full collection in EPUB format. There are still moves to be made, but it would seem that the only major impact the Kobo eReader will have had will be to lower the eReader pricing trend enough to wipe itself out of the market.
This week has brought us the launch of a co-branded HP (NYSE:HPQ) and Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) eBook store. What does this bring to the market? Not a whole lot of new insight. The new site, accessible at http://hp.bn.com is basically a new black skin on the same old B&N website. Apparently, many new HP computers will be coming with a link to the B&N eBook store preloaded and may even have the reader software already installed and ready to go.
The most important thing to note here is that there seems to be absolutely nothing new happening. Maybe it is simply a branding move to help build the presence as eReader sales wars escalate, but you would expect something a bit more substantial from such a teaming up.
The store is the same. The software is the same. The selection is the same. The frequently referenced access to the LendMe technology is nothing more than the same old feature that the software already had. There is not even any effort made to specifically market it as an eBook store; there are still tabs for normal books and DVDs as on the B&N main site. This is all distinctly underwhelming. I suppose they had to come out with something new now that the Kindle has taken the feature lead back with their Collections organization system, but from my perspective this one fizzled.
Of course, everyone is jumping into the eBook thing. And that too before Apple arrives with their market altering tablet and makes everyone feel like they need to go back to the drawing board. So in an attempt to be all ‘me too’, Foxit has made its own eBook store. I just hope they don’t think that they can take on the Nook or the Kindle with this. It’s just not happening.
Foxit has its own eBook readers eSlick and they are actually pretty handy. The devices have recently been updated to support ePub and eReader. It already supported PDF and TXT, so now it is a well-rounded reader in terms of formats. I also like the fact that it started with PDF support built in. We all know by now how important that is.
This new store from Foxit offers over 60,000 titles to its customers. That is pretty nice on paper but when you realize that industry juggernauts like Barnes and Noble are in the game as well, you know that this store from a relatively small company is can’t be all that big a deal. And it actually isn’t. The major titles that you get on the Whispernet and on B&N’s store will probably not appear in this store soon enough for eSlick readers to choose this store over the other two that I mentioned.
But hey, more competition is always a good thing for the end users. There’s always more innovation and better prices in a market that is stuffed to the gills with products. Look at the mp3 player market for instance. No matter what your budget and needs, there’s one for you somewhere in the world. The direct relationship between price and quality will always be there but you can still get a 16GB player for around $50 if you look hard enough. So here’s to a better eBook future.