Saturday, October 15, 2011

Casualties of War

The war between Amazon and Barnes & Noble is heating up. Not unexpectedly, you and I, the readers, may be the casualties. I was reading an article by John R. Quain on FoxNews about the war and had a sinking feeling that readers will be the ones who take the hit in this fight.

Amazon is coming out this Fall with its Amazon Fire, an eReader with color (think iPad). They’ve made a deal with DC Comics to be the exclusive reader for about 100 graphic novels from DC Comics. As you might have guessed, Barnes & Noble was not happy about this exclusive deal and immediately pulled all of those titles off their shelves in their bookstores. As John Quain noted:
If publishers are going to enter into a format war based on exclusive arrangements with specific booksellers, why should the company dedicate its valuable shelf space to books that its own customers can't buy on its Nook device?
On the other side of the issue, Barnes & Noble has exclusive deals for titles, like the interactive Peanuts books. And on another side of the issue, some publishers such as Macmillan and Simon & Schuster don’t let libraries lend their e-books.

Already, writers are struggling to get their books ready for a widespread array of formats. One is hard enough, let alone multiple formats, although there are some sites that will format for several different devices.

So here you’ve got this war going on between the big boys and, in the end, readers are likely to be the casualties. What happened to the idea of having an e-format that was readable on all eReaders? That was my hope – probably just a wish in the wind. This battle may continue until one company crushes the others or someone leads the giants into compromise.

As a writer, what do you think of this war? As a reader, how does it affect you?


  1. Hey Helen - first of all, I can't believe I wasn't already following you. I thought I was.. d'oh.

    I agree with what you say about formatting. Drives me crazy already. I live in Canada and bought a Kindle from Amazon because I had heard that they were better than the e-reader available in Canadian bookstores, Indigo/Chapters. A Kobi, I think it's called. Anyway, it wasn't until I tried ordering books from that I realized I couldn't order many bestsellers because the electronic rights for Canada were not owned by Amazon. AND you have to have a Kobi, not a Kindle, to read them. Sorry that sounds confusing. The gist of of it is, I'm screwed.

  2. I suppose I don't see the problem, like Cathy, because I live in the US. Amazon is the giant here.

    I also thought they were moving toward a common eformat. In the meantime, as a writer, I don't mind publishing in different formats. As a reader, I haven't seen anything that I can't get for the Kindle.

    Several people I know have multiple ereaders already, being gadget oriented. Maybe it will come to that. They are getting cheap enough to do so.

  3. That's a shame. The iPad has a Kindle app - wonder if I'll be able to read the DC comics on that?
    And you are one away from five hundred followers, Helen!

  4. I read something about this also. If it goes further, it might also impact writers. Amazon wants to take over the world.

  5. Hi Cathy. Thanks for following. If I ever get my computer back, I can follow new folks. (Don't get me growling about my computer.)

    Laura, long ago I heard we might go to a single format, but there's too much fighting to be the big dog for Amazon and the others to give in just yet.

    You're right, Alex! I hadn't noticed that. What can I do to celebrate? I seriously doubt anyone would want a copy of one of my tech books. Hmm, I shall have to think about this.

    Whatever happens, Susan, it'll affect writers. You're right about that.

  6. Helen, your posts are always great conversation starters. I brought this up at a dinner party yesterday and it started a very lively debate about e-readers vs. print, battling bookstores, and how long it would take for one or more of them to fold. It was a great discussion and I have you to thank. :)

  7. I feel pretty much like a medieval peasant, hoeing potatoes while the warlords do battle just over the next rise ... if their war doesn't spill onto my field, I'll just keep hoeing my potatoes ... if it does, well, I'll probably won't survive to care.

  8. In most cases the "war" between companies (sometimes called competition, in more peaceful language) will benefit the customers. I', curious about how this case will end

    Cold As Heaven

  9. Personally, I think all of this will end up hurting the places that refuse to deal with those books. Readers will find a way to read the books they want. For the Kindle, there is the Kindle app for the iPad, smart phones, PCs, Mac. There might even be one for the Nook in their apps, but I'm not certain. I don't think this will hurt writers too much because readers still have options to find their books. They might just have to go with Amazon--making Amazon more powerful--than B&N, etc.

    In the end, it seems just silly and petty.

  10. Smashwords has multiply formats which is really smart but they only do indie books, though there's enough great ones of those out there at cheap prices to keep me going. Kobo is the only reliable epub store for everything other than kindle, because B&N don't sell to Australians and neither does the sony store even though I have a sony. Isn't that crazy? The stores with the reader in mind will be the ones who will do best - I predicted that Kobo would become big just because they sell to everyone and now they're the third biggest ebook store.

    Selfishness won't win customers, giveing us what we want will.

  11. Helen, as always, you ask pertinent and challenging questions.

    As a reader and a writer a single format would be ideal. In a way this "war" is already beginning to corrupt the opportunities that technology has brought to humankind. Take two big boys, a pinch of greed and a slice of egotism, and humanity as a whole has to see something that is good for all be abused and corrupted to make the few feel like "winners" when it is the many who should "win" the advantages of technology!

    Sorry. Your questions got me on my soapbox...again!
    Judy, South Africa


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