E-Book Readers: Retailers Load Up Their Shelves

by Joel Friedlander on November 1, 2010 · 11 comments

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I ran down to Best Buy today to pick up a new USB hub. But before I could clear the doorway, I was stopped dead in my tracks. A new display had materialized right in front of the doors, where the security guys give you the once-over on the way into the store.

Several display racks had been pushed together to form a little mini-shop right where you walk in. And what was in this mini shop? Ebook readers. Lots of them. From many manufacturers. And not only that, lots of accessories too, like covers, extra power cords, cases.

I spent the next fifteen minutes talking to a very knowledgeable young woman who knew each reader, it’s plusses and minuses, and how they compared to each other. She told me they had just recently set up the display, and also told me that the Kindle was the best-seller. She, however, was holding out for a Nook, the Barnes & Noble reader with the little color navigation screen at the bottom.

Best Buy ereaders and self publishingChecking Bestbuy’s website, I see they now have 19 readers for sale, including:

  • Kindle
  • Sony Reader, in the Touch, Reader and Daily versions
  • Nook
  • Color Nook (expected in about a week)
  • Pandigital Reader. This is a 7″ color touchscreen linked to Barnes & Noble’s ebookstore and developed from Pandigital’s expertise with photo frames.
  • Ectaco jetBook Lite reader. This interesting reader is amazingly universal. It accepts files in 11 formats including ePub, Mobi, PDF, txt and hooks up to the Barnes & Noble ebookstore. The jetBook Lite is the only ereader I know of that runs on 4 AA batteries, and supports out of the box text in over 30 languages. At $149 this reader could make quite a splash.
  • Sharper Image Literati eReader. This color, 7″ screen reader is reminiscent of the Kindle, with a keyboard at the bottom and page turning buttons on the side. Ebook sales are provided through the Kobo bookstore, this $149 reader has a corporate look and feel.
  • Sungale – Cyberus Digital Wireless Reading Device. This 7″ touchscreen color device is billed as a “Smart Info Engine eBook Reader and Universal Portable Media Device” and costs $179. It features a host of applications and a 4 hour battery life.

The only thing missing from the display at the store was Apple’s iPad. But not to worry, because Apple has an entire installation, a mini Apple Store, in the back of Best Buy and the iPad is prominently on display there.

ebooks and ereaders

New Product Categories Sprouting

If you look for moments when products cross over from niche use, limited to devotees and early adopters and enter the mainstream of retail America, this would be one such moment.

Best Buy is getting ready for the holiday season. Ebook readers look to be high on a lot of people’s gift lists. With falling prices and the generally lower cost of ebooks compared to printed books, these devices are looking like this year’s hot item. I see from Ectaco’s website that they are also offering their jetBook Mini. This 5″ LCD screen reader weighs less than 6 ounces, runs for 90 hours on 4 AAA batteries, and retails for $99.

self publishing ebooks

You can see where this is going. Right now Best Buy has the readers in their “Video Games and Gadgets” category. Either they will catch the imagination of millions of people, becoming part of their day to day life, or they will remain a niche product and retreat back to the shelves in the depths of the store, making way for whatever is the next big thing.

But ebooks and the hardware they run on are moving aggressively into the mainstream of American life right now. On a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t walk 3 rows through the plane without encountering Nooks and Kindles.

As self-publishers and indie authors, we often tout our ability to move faster and adapt more readily to changing market conditions than larger, corporate publishers. It looks like time to put that to the test, doesn’t it?

Takeaway: As publishers, we need to move into digital versions of our works as soon as we can, to be there when people start browsing the online bookstores. We need to have good metadata, to make our books discoverable in searches. And we need to keep finding ways to drive readers to our pages on ebookstore sites, print bookstore sites, and our own domains where readers have a chance to participate in an interactive community.

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    { 9 comments… read them below or add one }

    Michael N. Marcus November 1, 2010 at 3:06 am

    >>If you look for moments when products cross over from niche use, limited to devotees and early adopters and enter the mainstream of retail America, this would be one such moment.<

    It's interesting to see that eReaders are now being sold in stores not known for either books or electronics–such as Kohls and Bon-Ton–as well as less-surprising venues Walmart, Sears, RadioShack, Staples and Target.

    When Walmart starts selling a product, it’s a good indication that the product is considered acceptable to mainstream America–as when JCPenney started selling thong underwear and when McDonald’s entered the bagel business.

    BestBuy is being foolish by not displaying an iPad in the new eBook sections.

    In two BBs near me, the iPad sectons are hard to find, and the iPad camera adapter has never been in stock. They do have some apparently unpopular adapters gathering dust.

    Target stocks iPad cases that BB does not have. I got a reallly nice leather-like "Speck" tilt-up case at Target last week for $10 off the usual $40 price. It's much better than my original non-tilting Belkin case bought last April when there were fewer choices.

    Info at http://www.speckproducts.com/ipad/dustjacket-1489.html

    Youtube video at http://www.ipadgames24.com/the-speck-and-philips-ipad-case-unboxing

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
    Create Better Books, with the Silver Sands Publishing Series: http://www.silversandsbooks.com/booksaboutpublishing.html
    – "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)," http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661750

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 1, 2010 at 9:23 am

    If Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Sears, Radio Shack, Staples and all the other usual suspects have decided people want ereaders, that fact alone will probably end up selling a lot more hardware. The implicit endorsement in enough to convince a lot of people they might be worth having.

    Reply

    Lovelyn November 1, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I published my novel in e-format before I even considered getting a paperback version printed. I think the ereader boom is great. I don’t have one yet, but like many people I’m planning on getting one during the holidays. I don’t know which one I’ll get yet though.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 1, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Lovelyn, looks like you’re not along. From the looks of the stores, they are gearing up to sell a lot of these devices over the holidays. One thing that means is millions of more ebook readers in 2011. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Reply

    Christy Pinheiro November 1, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Great post Joel, I love the pictures. It kind of brings the point home, doesn’t it? Ereaders are here to stay, and paper books are going the way of the dodo. I just saw an ipad at Walmart yesterday and I was AMAZED. Mainly because I hate that store (I was only going there because they are the ONLY store that carries a natural PMS supplement that I love– yes, it’s true– I just had to stress that I need a REALLY compelling reason to shop at that awful store).

    The display was amazing– gorgeous, under glass, blue and white. It really stood out compared to all the cheap displays and taped-up returns. I just couldn’t believe that I saw an ipad there.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 1, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Okay, Christy, we’ve decided it’s fine if you shop at Walmart, as long as you have a reason.

    Yes, you got the point I was trying to make, that if these things are getting the royal treatment from all these retailers, maybe ebooks are not just a passing fad? We’ll see.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus November 1, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Christy…

    Does the P in PMS stand for “pre” or “post?”

    There should be a D (during) MS medication for husbands and boyfriends who have to be with you stressed-out ladies.

    Reply

    maggie November 2, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    While on a business trip in Vancouver three days ago, my daughter-in-law slipped and fell into her hotel’s elaborate (and unprotected) fountain. She got soaked, along with her iPad, iPhone, and camera. She was able to change her clothes and get to the medical meeting she was chairing; her electronics, however, were wrecked.

    I don’t know about you guys, but I can manage perfectly fine without a cell phone and a camera, but I cannot manage without a book. My DIL flew home with whatever paperback she could glean from the airport’s bookstore.

    Let’s hear it for PAPER!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander November 2, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Sorry about your daughter-in-law, Maggie. But I’ll raise a glass to printed books anytime you like. Cheers!

    Reply

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