A Perfect Storm For eBooks

X-Men_StormWith the U.S. Department of Justice putting the hit on Apple and a cabal of publishers for alleged collusion and price-fixing on  one side, Amazon brings a smackdown on the other announcing plans to lower prices for eBooks on the Kindle. While a number of the publishers have decided to settle with the DOJ, Apple and five others did not, leading the DOJ to formally file suit against them.

Apple has denied any wrong doing, but it seems clear that regardless of how things turn out, the prices that consumers pay for most eBooks are about to tumble. I’ve seen a lot of gloom and doom on the net about what this will do to publishers and small bookstores, but I think that in the end a perfect storm may be brewing for eBooks to take the center stage of reading, just as digital downloads on iTunes has done for music. Despite the high cost of eBooks relative to what many readers think they should be in relation to their printed siblings, the eReader market is booming. I think a critical mass of Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and other tablets has been reached. The only thing holding the eBook back now are the artificially high prices being propped up by the old guard of publishers, aided, unfortunately, by Apple.

When prices drop, the flood gates will open on sales of eBooks and reading devices. Obviously, Amazon stands to gain a great deal from this. Ironically, so will Apple which should see an increase in iPad sales as well, especially if they see greater adoption of their tablet by school districts. The fighting is going to be fierce and there’s a big question as to whether Barnes & Noble is likely to survive. The Nook Tablet is a great reader, but Barnes & Noble may not have the resources to fight toe to toe with Amazon. If they’re smart, they’ll be in talks with Google right now for a partnership or buyout.

Change happens. But I’m more excited about the world of digital literature to come, than fearful of the end of things I’ve known in the past. At the end of the day, a book is more about the thoughts the author shares with us, than the media that delivers them.

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