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eBook Store Wars Bring Back Memories and Offer Choices



Back in the days that I lived in Chicago it was a free fire zone in the Book Store wars. Downtown Chicago was certainly the centerpiece but in the area where I lived around Clark, Diversey and Halsted streets it was also full of action. Most of the book stores had a location in my neighborhood including Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, Kroch’s and Brentano’s, and the one that really shook things up, Crown Books. There was also a really good independent book store, Barbara’s Bookstore, within a short walk up Broadway. There may have been more but my memory is a little foggy. Here’s an interesting article from back in the day about those Chicago Book Store Wars. What was fantastic for consumers was that you could price compare on a nice weekend stroll around the neighborhood. Occasionally you found a good deal, but usually the prices were about the same.

Of course that was back in the day before Amazon took off and changed so much about Internet commerce and book buying in general. Now that Google has entered the fray with its own online Book Store things sure look a bit familiar when I think back. Amazon is the king of the hill at the moment and probably will stay that way. Barnes & Noble is working hard to play Avis in this current scrape. Apple is lagging behind but still has a shot even though it can’t seem to come to terms with some publishers. There’s rumors that Borders and B&N might merge, and Google is now smack dab in the middle of it all with some considerable clout on day one.

For consumers this offers some choice depending on how you want to read eBooks. If you want a specific device (The Kindle or the Nook as examples) you can limit yourself to one catalog or the other of titles. But you can choose options that allow you to read from all the big players on just about any device as well. In my early looking prices varied a little here and there but not by much and not to any great degree, again reminding me of those book store war days. You’d occasionally find a deal but by and large the prices were all the same once Crown and its discounting business model disrupted that market.

So what will the differentiators be? Or will they even be necessary? I don’t see price being a major difference maker, as I’m guessing beyond promotions the price points will all end up around the same. At the moment it looks like selection is really the only real difference maker and perhaps ease of use and habit. Amazon certainly has an edge when it comes to ease of use and title availability. But B&N and Google can essentially offer the same thing. Andy Ihnatko recently pointed out that with some hacking you can use the Kindle Reader on the Nook Color, which is Android based. So I guess if you wanted you could use that device to read from them all. But you can essentially do that with any iOS or Android device as well as with your laptop. And don’t forget there are other eReader choices out there. Stanza (owned by Amazon) comes to mind, and there are others.

So, if you can essentially have the same thing regardless of platform which eBook seller will you choose and why? Let us know in the comments.



  1. savagemike

    12/10/2010 at 8:46 pm

    I have somewhat enjoyed the irony of Barnes & Noble being kneecapped by amazon after watching it pretty much destroy the lion share of independent book sellers not too long ago.
    In a certain light, many would see amazon as a blazing karmic sword.
    But I digress….

    The difference between the older wars and the new e-book wars is that the product is not the same any more even though it is the same book for about the same price.
    The hardware and software environments become, I think, the differentiators.
    Though it is true that some formats are more portable than others.
    But, for instance, even though you can read e-pub on nook color – I don’t know if it utilizes the same app and aids that a book purchased from B&N uses.

    The thing which needs to be sorted before we let publishers get too far away with all of this is the concept of ownership and some way to facilitate that idea.
    If I buy a book – real or digital, then I want to own that book.
    I want to be able to resell it.
    I want to be able to lend it to as many people as I want for as long as I want (only one instance of it though – that is reasonable).
    I want to be able to donate it to a library if I’d like.

  2. Roberto

    12/12/2010 at 2:15 am

    I chose the Kindle in the end mainly for 2 reasons (this was before google came out but I would probably make the same choice.) 1. I liked that device, the way it was laid out, the way the “pages” looked, and the size of it. I thought that color strip on the bottom of the nook was kind of dumb and the LCD back-lite one is still LCD, hard on my eyes anyway, although younger eyes might find it better. 2. Choice of books. Amazon seemed to have more at the time.
    Savagemike brings up some good points. From my point of view, if I by the e-book, I do own it. Periodically I back up all my books off line so I have them. If something happens with Amazon, I still have a copy of what I bought. While I haven’t looked, there must be some sort of hack for it if I felt like I needed it.
    As for his points about being able to lend a book or resell them, it’s a trade off I guess. A book I bought recently, it was $2.99 for Kindle, paperback was $8.50, and & trade paperback was $10.00. For $2.99, I’ll take the trade-off of not being able to lend it or resell it or donate it.
    Really at some point what I would like to see is, you by whatever reading device you want and then you could buy from any store you like, including independent stores. Wishful thinking I’m sure. hahaha.

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