Today Disney Publishing is announcing the launch of Disney Digital Books (www.disneydigitalbooks.com), an online subscription service that will offer parents and kids Web access to Disney's library of children's books. A subscription costs $8.95/month or $79.95/year; subscriptions can be bought online or via gift cards that will be sold in retail locations. Initially, the site will launch with 500 books, and more content will be added on a weekly basis. (I asked whether Marvel Comics content, which will be available on the Sony PSP, would be available through the site and Disney said not at first, and it was too early to comment further.)
Today iRex announced the launch of its first consumer eReader, which will be available for sale for $399 at Best Buy, Costco, and other US retailers this holiday season, with distribution in Europe coming in Q2 2010. The skinny:
A new Forrester report on the eReader market just went live (clients can access the full version here).
In brief: We surveyed 4,706 US consumers in an online survey to find out what value they place on eReader devices. We used a Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter methodology to ask consumers four open-ended questions:
At what price would you consider an electronic book device/eBook reader a bargain?
At what price would you consider an electronic book device/eBook reader expensive but still purchase it?
What price would be so inexpensive that you would question the quality of an electronic book device/eBook reader?
What price would be so expensive that you would not consider buying an electronic book device/eBook reader?
We plot all the data and to find the optimal price range for different segments of consumers--what price you'd have to charge for the device to get the maximum number of consumers buying an eReader.
What we found was that the price points for how most consumers value eReaders is shockingly low--for most segments, between $50 and $99. (Currently, eReaders in the US are priced between $199 for the Sony Pocket Reader and $489 for the Kindle DX.)
Here you can see the breakdown for how different segments of consumers answered the question, "At what price would you consider an electronic book device/eBook reader expensive but still purchase it?":
A new report from the Cleantech Group (available for purchase or to Cleantech clients) takes on a big question: Are the Kindle and other eReaders really "green"?
In Forrester's surveys, we've found that of US online adults who are interested in eReaders, 51% say they're interested because they think that eReaders are "better for the environment." But I've often wondered if consumers just believe that eReaders are green, or if they really are.
Today CourseSmart, a joint venture of five of the biggest textbook publishers, is launching an iPhone app to augment its Web subscription service for eTextbooks. Its subscription service offers access to more than 7,000 textbooks, at an average of 50% off print prices. Currently, CourseSmart has a few hundred thousand student subscribers, out of a potential addressable market of 13 million US college students (they only target higher education, not K-12, for now).
The iPhone app is nice, with a snappy thumbnail browse feature. It's not something you'd read on, per se, but offers easy access to look up something, search for something, or access your notes. Having the option of mobile access will undoubtedly increase the appeal of CourseSmart's subscription service, assuming the company is successful at marketing the new feature.
Currently, CourseSmart's content isn't integrated into the Kindle or other dedicated reading devices; this app marks its first move into increasing access to eTextbooks on any kind of mobile device. Maintaining print-identical formatting and pagination is a crucial aspect of its product; eReading devices aren't ready to support this type of content yet, but the iPhone is a move that makes sense.
Just a quick note to say that we've got a new report up on the changing demographics of eReader buyers: "Who Will Buy An eReader?," available in full to Forrester clients.
First, eReader interest and awareness is definitely growing, as you can see:
Second, the types of consumers likely to buy an eReader are changing. While early adopters of eReaders were a perfect storm of demographics for Amazon (they could afford the device, they have a need for the device in business travel and urban commuting, they like technology, and they buy lots of books online), future prospects for the devices look completely different. They're more likely to be female, less tech optimistic, and they read a lot (on average, 5 books per month) but they buy and borrow books from multiple sources, as opposed to buying lots of books online.
The big takeaway is that this could spell trouble for Amazon, if competitors can move in to better serve the later waves of adopters who don't have as strong a relationship with the eCommerce giant.
I've heard from clients that they're already seeing this shift--more women buying the devices and shopping for eBooks. Looking forward to continuing the discussion...
Today Sony announced that its public domain offerings from Google in its eBook store has reached 1 million volumes. That's a lot of eBooks. For context, the Library of Congress has 32 million books and is the world's largest library; Harvard's collection is 5th largest at 15 million books. (Thanks, Wikipedia.) So we're merrily trucking along at digitizing the world's collection of books.
At 8am this morning Plastic Logic announced that it will be partnering with AT&T to provide wireless 3G connectivity on its eReader device, expected out in Q1 2010. This announcement follows the news of Barnes & Noble's partnership with the device-maker.
No doubt, having big brands like B&N and AT&T on its partnership roster helps Plastic Logic establish credibility in a market where it is an unknown, competing against mammoths like Amazon and Sony. And the announcements help inspire confidence that the device will actually get to market--an assumption that can't be taken for granted given the pre-launch financial failure of other eReader competitors like Polymer Vision.
We think cellular connectivity--not just wifi, which isn't available everywhere--is table-stakes for Plastic Logic (and Barnes & Noble) to have any hope of competing with Amazon. Consumers value the seamless connectivity of the Kindle's Whispernet service, which lets them download a book in 60 seconds using Sprint's network. Especially since Plastic Logic will be focused on newspapers (USA Today and The Financial Times are also partners), having the device be able to connect and refresh content anytime, anywhere, will be crucial for its success.
What we still don't know: the financial terms of the deal. Will it be a wholesale model with a per-user monthly fee, like Sprint's arrangement with Amazon? Or will consumers be charged directly for a monthly data plan, like AT&T does for Apple iPhones? Will AT&T get a cut of every transaction, or just a per-user fee?
What we do know is that the big remaining competitor in the US mobile market, Verizon/Vodafone, won't be able to sit this one out. Our prediction: We'll see them partner up with Sony, First Paper, or both, before the end of the year.
A little birdie told me several weeks ago that Polymer Vision, maker of the "rollable" pocket-size Readius, would be filing for bankruptcy, and lo and behold, they did, as reported on July 15 by the Hampshire Chronicle, the local paper of Millbrook, England, where the company was based. The story has since been picked up by Engadget, and here's our two cents.
First, a bit of background: Royal Philips Electronics was one of the early investors in E Ink, which makes the displays for nearly all eReaders on the market today. Deciding that eReaders were not a core business focus, in 2005 Philips spun off iRex Technologies, a company that has since seen modest success with its B2B sales model for eReaders, and spun off Polymer Vision in 2006. Polymer Vision was planning to manufacture its own displays, and use an ODM in Asia for the device manufacturing, with the goal of dominating a new market for pocket-sized eReaders.