Over this weekend news broke that Borders is closing all of its stores for good. This comes after they filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and closed some of their stores, but not all of them.
Some analysts and bloggers have speculated that bookstores are having a hard time because of the growing popularity of online shopping. That includes online shopping for paper books as well as shopping online for ebooks. Between both of those, old-fashioned bookstores have lost much of their foot traffic. This is also on top of Amazon’s extremely low prices that small bookstores have never been able to compete with.
When I heard the news that Borders was completely shutting down, the first thing I thought of was Kobo. I was under the impression that they were owned by Borders, but it turns out that Borders only owned an 11% stake in the company, according to this article on PCMag. The article also says that Kobo has its own agreements with major book publishers and does not rely on Borders for content.
If you bought a Kobo eReader at a Borders store, you probably set up your account through them instead of directly with Kobo. Kobo has a way for you to transition your account to Kobo and move it away from Borders. You can see instructions for that here. You can also get content for your Kobo eReader from independent stores like eBookMall (see their Kobo page for info).
Earlier this week Google announced their “own” eReader device. They have commandeered the iriver Story HD, which has already been around for a while, and added some built-in Google Books functionality to it, and are now going to be selling it at Target for $139.99.
Before this, you could use ebooks from Google on your computer or many devices (iOS, Android, etc) by downloading the ebook and then sending it to the device. This is different because you can use the iriver Story to wirelessly download ebooks directly to the device.
According to the Google blog post, this is just the beginning. They’d like more eReader developers to work in WiFi access to Google Books on their devices as well.
A while back I tested the Google eBooks system and wrote a post with details about it. I liked how it worked. I read a book or two in the Google Books app on my iPhone and was pleased with it. It would be useful to be able to download ebooks directly to an E-Ink eReader if you were already doing most of your e-reading on that type of device.
I think it would be great if eReader manufacturers could add this into already-existing devices, perhaps in firmware updates. That way people could choose to make use of their current downloading system as well as Google Books. I doubt they will do that right away since that would reduce any need for buying this iriver device, but perhaps it will happen a little later on.
This study and report by Pew Internet says that e-reader ownership has doubled within the last six months, bringing ownership of e-readers up to 12% of all adults in the US.
My local news actually reported this last week. I don’t know if they got their data from this study or elsewhere, but they also said that ownership of e-reading devices was up to 12% of those surveyed.
What I found especially interesting about that news report was that nobody seemed really shocked by it. For a long time, the idea of reading ebooks was scoffed at, and every time I told anybody what I did for work they would respond with something like, “Oh, hmm. I like to read on paper.” Of course, the person had never actually used an ebook or e-reader, so this is like a little kid saying they don’t like kiwi before they’ve even tried it. Nowadays I still get the same response from some people, but in general ebooks have become mainstream enough that they aren’t being treated with as much prejudice.
This Pew article has some other interesting numbers in their demographics study. E-reader ownership is fairly evenly distributed between age brackets, evenly split between male and female, but the higher you go in income or level of school completed, the more e-readers you get. That’s not surprising since this kind of thing falls under the category of disposable income, but I do find it interesting that people of all ages own e-readers.
They also have information on the amount of people who own e-readers as well as tablets, generally indicating that e-readers are more widely owned than tablets at this point. That is to be expected since tablets are a bit newer and more expensive.
I attribute this growth to the excellent marketing that Amazon does of its Kindle, as well as the popularity of the Nook and Kobo e-readers. Even though I don’t agree with the restrictive nature of the Kindle, Amazon made e-readers a household object, and the rest of the market has grown because of that.