Will Amazon Rule the eVerse (of books)?

GreenPorch Winter of eReadingProbably, but only in the same way that the Alliance rules the Verse in Firefly. There will always be Independent browncoats and fringe planets. Currently these confederates are as motley as you would expect: Barnes and Noble, Apple, Google and Kobo being the rowdiest.

Barnes and Noble knows how to sell books. They are and have been primarily a bookstore. Having survived the economic downturn and the rise of the e-book, they have advantages over Amazon when it comes to relationships with libraries and book distributors. Plus they have brick and mortar stores, which I hear some people still go to. B&N also makes a mean eReading device, that along with Kobo and Sony will read .epub format (the universal format that Amazon is doing its best to bury like they did to .mobi a while back). The Nook, by most measures, is as good or better than the Kindle. (Their actual eReader software is better, so thhppp!)

Apple is a device innovator. They barely even care about books, but they know how to steal the hearts of nerds who happen to read quite a bit. And unlike Amazon, they have flare. Laugh if you must, but it has taken years for the Kindle to figure out how to “simulate” the actual turning of a page rather than just clicking to a new page full of content. iBooks has done this from day one.

While the iPhone and the iPad are not eReaders (strictly or purely) they are popular enough to force anyone who wants to sell electronic books to play ball with them. They remain the one device maker that allows users easy and free access to every other eBook distributer. Buying Kindle or Nook books on the iPad/iPhone is as easy as buying books from the iBooks store. (Conversely, only Apple users have access to iBooks).

Some say that Kobo is Canadian, and therefore doesn’t have the balls to compete with Amazon. But I say sometimes jelly donuts can get you further than a kick to the groin. When it comes to selling eBooks in emerging markets (everywhere outside of the US) apparently other counties often agree. Plus Kobo has a great eReading device along with the most substantial integration with their superior eReading software. Many people prefer to use the Kobo reading app when using the iPhone or iPad. It works sort of like a social media/reader hybrid.

Lastly, there’s Google Books–the wildcard. Google is a little like that pampered number one overall draft pick. It has all the tangibles to be a superstar in the ebook world. But industry scouts world over have been left scratching their melons. At times it looks like Google will take the eVerse by storm, shattering the way we imbibe information. Other times it looks like the Big G has already settled back to live off of Gatorade endorsements. No one knows whether they have the long-term passion or focus to play the game.[divider]

All this to say niches are being carved out of the Amazon/Kindle eVerse where different sets of rules run the show. I’d be amiss to leave out the old guard of the publishing industry. As slow and gangly as they are, they’ve finally admitted that the eBox has been opened and there ain’t no closing it. But currently they lack a direct interface with the consumer, and eBooks are about directness.

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