Apple recently announced the launch of the iPad 2, and there’s much excitement about the eReader space in general right now. Before you run out and grab one when they go on sale tomorrow, take some time to consider whether this high tech device is right for you.
Digital books, magazines, and newspapers are becoming more popular every day. Print publishers are jostling to maintain control of their products as the technical giants begin to develop new ways to deliver content that’s not only cheaper, but just plain cool. Apple is leading the tablet pack right now, with sales of iPads soaring. Apple’s iBooks eReader platform is easy to use, and free to shop for anyone who owns an Apple product.
Of course, the books in the shop cost money. The iPad is just one of many such devices available when it comes to reading electronic books…and it’s pricey. Before you run out for a multi-functional tablet PC, think about whether you should be shopping for an eReader instead. Does it need to be as powerful as the iPad? Perhaps a Kindle or a Nook will do. The biggest question here is the long-term viability of any eBooks you buy. Will Apple take over the publishing industry the same way it did with music?
Will History Repeat?
When iTunes hit the market, the foundation underneath the music industry shuddered. Apple revolutionized the way music was delivered to consumers, and it kept tight control over pricing and formatting during the process. Pricing kept pace with industry standards for the lucky consumer, but limitations abound in the tightly controlled realm of Apple media. The print publishing industry is worried that the iPad and eBooks could be the beginning of the same cycle in the print world.
Consumers should worry, too. Reduced competition creates higher prices. If you’re debating an eReader purchase now, you might be leaning toward the first edition iPad — which will be selling at a seriously reduced rate on eBay and other used hardware marketplaces as soon as the iPad 2 hits the market tomorrow. But before you throw in the towel on the idea that Apple is going to take this space over, look a little closer.
Publishers are Watching Carefully
Unlike the iTunes revolution, which took the world by surprise, the transition to ePublishing is being watched closely. Print publishers are anxious to avoid the mistakes made by the music industry. The top strategy right now? Fight! Let’s not forget that Amazon has been positioning itself to take over the publishing game for years already.
Moreover, publishers don’t want to pay the 30% fee that Apple has threatened to charge on digital content. That drives up costs for consumers of digital media as well. Perhaps us regular old consumers will have a dog in this fight, after all.
Apple Could Overstep
This time around, Apple isn’t playing the game alone. Amazon’s Kindle and other eReaders offer alternative ways to read eBooks. These competitors have created applications for their eReaders that also work on iPads. At least in the digital book content realm, this offers a healthy dose of competition that keeps costs down for consumers.
That leaves plenty of options for a modestly priced Kindle or Nook. These aren’t the only eReaders out their either. Sony has a very slick eReader that has been thriving on the market without much fanfare. Others that operate on the Google’s Android operating system seem to be popping up all the time.
These other readers are each popular to large numbers of consumers, so a little humility is in order for Apple. In my view, the industry simply won’t stand for limiting the market to the iPad alone. One could argue that those who can afford an iPad won’t have much trouble buying a Kindle, but Kindle owners won’t necessarily switch to iPad.
By keeping prices as low as possible, publishers stand the best chance of success with eContent. Keeping prices low increases sales volume. Limiting content to the iPad could seriously hamper publisher success.
Until the market matures, you have a few options to consider. Here are some of the current prices of your eReading options that turned up from a search of Amazon:
Sony eReader: $95
Your PC: Free!
That’s right. Thousands are buying these gadgets when they already have eReading capability on their own PCs. That requires you pay about $10 a pop for the eBooks. Still, you can find many classics free on the Web…or you could go back to when wheels were square and just buy yourself a used paperback for less than $5 delivered at half.com. Even better, get an account at Swap.com and trade your old books for new ones for next to nothing!
Jessica Bosari is the Site Manager and Editor for Billeater, a blog with Money-saving tips to lower your bills. When she’s not gathering money-saving tips, Jessica is feeding her geeky side with sci-fi movies, tech gadgets, useful apps and productivity tricks, just to keep things interesting. Like all the contributing columnists at PerkStreet, she’s a customer and a personal finance pro.
Are you a personal finance writer who could benefit from being a regular guest contributor to the PerkStreet Blog like Jessica is? Email the editor at kyle.psaty[at]perkstreet[dot]com
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