Wow, lots happened in the book world this week. Google fired a first volley over the bow of amazon (its only possible competition at this point in the game), and Ackerman, who has a large stake in Borders, just make a bid for Barnes and Noble.
If you want the skinny on Google, Laura Miller over at Salon.com has an ARTICLE about Google's foray into amazon's playground. IMO, they jumped too late and were too clumsy about it. They should have forged an alliance with Sony five years ago and gone mano-e-mano with amazon and Kindle from the get go. Hindsight blahblabblah. Also, I think Google is making a HUGE mistake trying to palm off OCR renditions of books as actual books. Any brief perusal of reviews of e-readers always focuses first on the quality of the read. THAT is what an e-reader is competing against. Even a decent scan is a crappy read, so no. If I were Google, I'd have these in a separate market all together and not even lump them in with the e-book market. They already have deals with a number of publishers (who I suspect are leaping at a chance to bring amazon down a peg or two). Maximize those deals and stop trying to palm off lousy scans as e-books.
My two cents is that both amazon and Google will be bested by technology itself. THAT is actually going to be the biggest competitor for these e-book marketers. Because like the music industry, the bookselling market is now driven by technology. If Google can scan a book and pretend it's selling a book, then what's to stop me from buying a high-end scanner, doing the exact same thing, and charging a dollar for the download? NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And honey, I got a lot of books. It would probably take me a couple of years to scan everything that I have. Being a bookwhore, most of my stock is in hardcover. Ironically, Google's vision of evading paying copyright and scanning everything written under the sun and trying to portray it as the universal library is here. Except it's not in their hands, as they wanted.
I said here months ago that either B&N or Borders was going to go, that the market can't sustain two huge booksellers, and low and behold, Ackerman, who has a large stake in Borders, has just made a bid for B&N, the article is HERE.
This is closely related (if not a casualty of) the e-reader and e-book phenomena, although it doesn't seem so at first glance. The subject of e-readers always elicits cries of frustration from the book owners in this crowd. I don't own an e-reader, but that is largely due to cash flow issues, but I will buy one at some point soon. Because it's the wave of the future. I have acres of books in my house. I have so many books that I have them double shelved and stacked. When I make posts like this I always get posts back on how much people love their books, but that's no longer the issue. Because books are becoming far too expensive to produce and their market share in the entertainment field continues to drop. Mass market is dyingdyingdying, and within the next ten years I figure that a significant portion of book commerce will be electronic. Readers don't have a choice. The market is changing without their participation. They can buy as many books as they want now, but that's not going to save the paper book. I think that there will always be a few books published. The best sellers. The textbooks. Non-fiction. But the rest I think is going electronic because book buying and book selling is a dying business. And when you have a book reader that costs less than a frigging phone, well, then. What that does for the author is a whole other post.