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Old 09-21-2007, 01:01 PM   #1
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Sony Connect Store and Borders: is this the beginning of a Beautiful Friendship?

By now it's old news (two whole days) that Borders and Sony have hammered out an alliance in e-reading, combining their respective developing on-line presences to create a new e-book source (in addition to Borders' new on-line paper book sales point).

One of the things we, as an e-reading community, have been concerned about is what sort of long-term commitment Sony might have to this whole e-reader/e-book thing. So I thought I'd share what I'm thinking on the matter, taking into account recent developments, news and rumors.

Let's see, in addition to this Borders/ConnStore alliance, we have unusually reliable rumors of a follow on model in the PRS line, not a total make-over, more of an incremental move. We also have a full up press release from Adobe which contains the tidbit that Sony "has committed to embed Adobe Digital Editions technology into its portable reader product line."

Buried in the actual press release about the new BordConnStore, is the morsel that they are now up to 20k books -- most likely the ConnStore's present holdings, as Borders doesn't have any e-books that we know about. This then implies that the ConnStore has doubled its holdings since the launch, which is pretty impressive, considering the fact that we know they have lost some titles along the way. And the ConnStore itself has improved drastically in function over the last year -- in fact, it seems to me that it has improved markedly since Sony dropped the music part of it a few months ago.

So, to summarize: .epub support announcement, doubled available title count, significant ConnStore functional improvements, new on-line alliance with Borders, new PRS model next month.

These all seem to me to add up to a fairly good indication that Sony plans to stick with this e-reading stuff ....

(As an aside, I note here, that they have, as they implied they would about this time last year, been pretty "hands off" when it's come to user hacks -- that doesn't really fit the present topic, but I find it gratifying, and interesting)


On the counter-indication side, we have ... well, I guess we have that they have been doing only a very limited marketing campaign (certainly you can't call it a "blitz"). That they've only released two firmware updates in eleven months (on a device that was eminently functional out of the box). That they're closing the music part of Connect, while leaving the e-book part intact.

Call me a skeptic, but none of those strike me as all that compelling negative evidence.


Okay, here's where I get speculative on you. I see two very large companies coming together to bring an e-book store into the world (to join an existing e-reading device). Both parent corporations have great name recognition, and both have excellent contacts and influence within the publishing community. It looks to me like they're moving in a direction that should strengthen .epub's already strong position (by virtue of its being an Adobe product) as a contender for a 'standard' e-book delivery format. It further seems to me that we're seeing a lot of new resources put into this joint effort. I don't see that as pointing toward Sony bailing on e-books or e-readers anytime soon.


At the same time, it should be noted that Amazon is doing more or less the same thing that Sony and Borders are doing together, but all on its own (I say on its own because they didn't partner with Mobi, they bought them, and they're bringing out their own e-reading hardware), and we've got fairly strong rumors that Mobi expects to support .epub as well.


Where will all this go? How fast will it get there? Are we finally seeing the tectonic shift that will start the e-book revolution?

I don't know, but whatever all this ends up meaning, I think I'm comfortable predicting that it will shake things up, and I'm optimistic that the results will be good for the e-reading world.



Now it's y'all's turn. What did I miss? Where am I wrong? And what should I be thinking.
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Old 09-21-2007, 01:09 PM   #2
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I just hope that Borders and Sony didn't strike up another exclusivity deal for the PRS-505 as they did for the PRS-500. The last few times I've been to Borders, a couple of different ones, I met with blank stares when I asked if they had the Sony Reader (even after I explained that it was a digital reading device).

I've been dying to see an E-Ink device in person.
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Old 09-21-2007, 01:13 PM   #3
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More Border stores are going to be having the Reader. So that's a good thing.
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Old 09-21-2007, 01:45 PM   #4
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Other stores have them besides Borders, but Borders have more locations than most chains.
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Old 09-21-2007, 01:49 PM   #5
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The one thing the Reader really needs for more widespread success - IMHO - is to become officially available to the 95% of the world's population who do not live in the USA.
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Old 09-21-2007, 01:51 PM   #6
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If Borders chooses to only offer eBooks in the Sony format (wrapped in ePub or wrapped around ePub, I'm not sure how that works), I think this won't help at all. But if Sony supports the ePub standard and that's what Borders chooses to sell, in a way that allows the files to be read on other devices, that would be great. I could really see this being the lever to get the publishers interested in putting more of their midlist and backlist books into ebook format.
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Old 09-21-2007, 02:00 PM   #7
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Other stores have them besides Borders, but Borders have more locations than most chains.
They do now, but when the PRS-500 was launched, Borders had exclusive rights to sell them for several months. I just hope they don't go down that road with the PRS-505.

If they do, that means no discounts, and tax for a lot of people. Tax alone can add $15-25 for a lot of people.

Last edited by MikeF74; 09-21-2007 at 02:06 PM.
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Old 09-21-2007, 02:17 PM   #8
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One question is can Borders be left to cater to other reading devices as they come out?
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Old 09-21-2007, 03:17 PM   #9
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Quote:
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They do now, but when the PRS-500 was launched, Borders had exclusive rights to sell them for several months.
End October of '06 (the month they launched), CompUSA and Fry's both had them.

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One question is can Borders be left to cater to other reading devices as they come out?
That is an excellent question, yvanleterrible, I hope the answer is that they will. I suspect that it hinges on nekokami's point as to whether they will support only Sony's BBeB format (either directly or 'disguised' as .epub) or not. I have the impression that they would support .epub as a replacement for PDF 'support,' and as an additional format in it's own right. I hope that means they're interested in not staying married to BBeB/LRX. I don't think there's a long-term future for BBeB, frankly, or for any of the single company owned proprietary formats. Mobipocket may be an exception, since they're already extremely widespread, and they have Amazon's heft to put behind it now.
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Old 09-21-2007, 03:37 PM   #10
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Most potential customers will see the devices as supporting one format only (not to mention that the devices are "only" monochrome) and therefore expect them to be heavily subsidized. The price of the ebooks must likewise be lowered dramatically as potential customers because of the DRM will (rightly) expect to lose the ebooks, when they - as they eventually will - change hardware platform.

Since neither of these things will happen soon, don't expect the general population to embrace ebooks just yet. Maybe Borders will lose patience?
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Old 09-21-2007, 03:52 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by NatCh View Post

Where will all this go? How fast will it get there? Are we finally seeing the tectonic shift that will start the e-book revolution?

I don't know, but whatever all this ends up meaning, I think I'm comfortable predicting that it will shake things up, and I'm optimistic that the results will be good for the e-reading world.

Now it's y'all's turn. What did I miss? Where am I wrong? And what should I be thinking.
Nice post with a great summary and good questions. I would like to agree with you that the big change may be on our doorstep right now. The technology is getting better fast and may be good enough now. And I'm not at all worried about consumers as I am sure they will eat this stuff up. But the deep dark secret that I wish someone would tell us is: Do book publishers care? Will they open up and sell us their books as ebooks or will they continue to be so concerned over possible lost income that they keep us all in the dark ages? I'd love to hear from some CEOs over beer confide in someone what they think the near future (say, the next five years) is really like to look like.
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Old 09-21-2007, 04:14 PM   #12
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Do book publishers care? Will they open up and sell us their books as ebooks or will they continue to be so concerned over possible lost income that they keep us all in the dark ages?
Those are excellent questions, vivaldirules, and they will, indeed, make a big difference in the future.

Some things I think will have an effect on the decisions the individual pubs make (and this is by no means a complete list!) are:

They've been watching RIAA get their head's handed to them, and the general disintegration of the various DRM schemes in the music industry -- I can only hope they draw intelligent conclusions from those shows.

They aren't making any money at all on out of print backlist titles at the moment.

Amazon, Sony, and now Borders are about to start seriously pestering them to make this jump, as all three of those have a ... significant vested interest in the release of more e-titles. I suspect those three are both motivated, and in pretty good positions to be ... persuasive.

Whether any of that amounts to a hill of beans to the individual pubs is another matter altogether, of course.
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Old 09-21-2007, 04:30 PM   #13
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But the deep dark secret that I wish someone would tell us is: Do book publishers care?
Some of them do. Publishers of category fiction tend to be both smaller and more in touch with their customers' interests. They're the ones who have moved toward e-books. The publishing super-mega-combo-glomerates will take longer, but I have no doubt that they'll tip over eventually. There are individuals inside those companies who are personally in favor of going e-. It just takes a while to swim upstream.
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Old 09-21-2007, 04:56 PM   #14
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Whether any of that amounts to a hill of beans to the individual pubs is another matter altogether, of course.
You're absolutely right. At the moment, I feel like we're having to resort to reading tea leaves to divine the future as we examine the various bits of information we have (as you've just summarized). Sure would like even justa wink and a nod from the guys who are in control of our future (and I have to believe they are not vendors or even consumers, at the moment) to tell us what that will be.
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Old 09-21-2007, 06:12 PM   #15
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I'm betting a shot of Karma that the 505 will feature Adobe's Digital Editions!
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