The Year in E-Books 2011
Once again, a remarkable year!
Eventually, this may all slow down, but we are definitely still in the Big Bang of E-Books.
I’m going to look at some of the big things that happened this year (so far…you never know what Amazon will do in the last days of the year). If you want to see the details, please see the ever-expanding ILMK E-Books Timeline. For posts in this series for previous years, see The Year in E-Books category.
April 11 saw the release of the first Kindle with Special Offers. In exchange for agreeing to see ads on the “screensavers” and a small ad on the homescreen, purchasers could get a Kindle at a discount. While initially greeted with some vehement skepticism, the ad-supported models proved to be more popular than their non-ad supported equivalents. Later on, Amazon will even give people who bought the more expensive version the ability to opt-in to receiving the ads and special offers.
Kindle Public Library Lending
Announced on April 20th as coming “this year”, borrowing books from the public library was enabled for Kindle users on September 21st. In November, there was a big buzz when the publisher Penguin has Overdrive disable the Kindle editions. Some access was later restored.
Kindle World Expansion
Throughout the year, Amazon expands the Kindle to additional Amazon sites in more countries: Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. When the new low-cost Kindle was introduced, it gave users the choice of several languages for the menus. Amazon also opened Kindle Direct Publishing to these other countries.
Legal Challenges to the Agency Model
When the Agency Model came into play for e-books on April 1, 2010, some people thought that the idea of publishers setting the prices that consumers pay might be open to legal challenge. There have been investigations in the European Union, and class action lawsuits in the USA. Random House joined the other five largest US trade publishers in using the Agency Model in March of 2011.
Amazon Introduces the Cloud Reader
Following Google’s lead with web-e-books, Amazon introduced its Cloud Reader on August 10th. This let people read Kindle book through a browser, expanding their reach. It launched for Safari and Chrome, and expanded to Firefox before the end of the year.
The Year of the Tablet…and the Touchscreen
On September 28, Amazon announced the new Kindle family. It kept the reflective screen, physical keyboard model, and introduced a touchscreen line. It also brought out an inexpensive, stripped down version. The big news, though, was the introduction of the Kindle Fire, a media tablet. Barnes & Noble and Kobo also introduce tablets (Barnes & Noble already had the NOOKColor “Reader’s Tablet”, but they introduce a NOOK Tablet as well). Before the end of the year, Amazon will report having sold millions of Kindle Fires, as well as a million combined Kindle units a week for at least three weeks.
Equal Collection Legislation
States continued to pass so-called “Amazon laws”, designed to redefine what “doing business in a state” means in order to compel Amazon and other online retailers to collect sales tax at the time of sale. One particularly famous battle was in California (a temporary compromise was worked out in that state). Paul Misener of Amazon testified before Congress in support of a national policy.
E-Book Market Continues to Expand…and with it, Independent Publishing
As sales of e-books continued to multiply (and mass market paperback sales retracted), independently published books rose on the bestseller lists. Two of Amazon’s top ten best-selling books of the year (combining e-book and physical book sales) were independently published. Some indie authors joined the Kindle Million Club, having at least a million sales of their titles at Amazon. In a related development, Amazon expanded its own publishing. Kindle Singles became bestsellers, and Amazon introduced new imprints, including one for science fiction/fantasy/horror.
A Special In Memoriam: Michael S. Hart
The mainstream media (and the specialty media) rightfully focused on the loss of Steve Jobs, a true innovator who affected the way we read e-books. Less covered was the loss on September 6, 2011, of Michael S. Hart, who was essentially the inventor of e-books. Hart’s organization, Project Gutenberg, utilized volunteers to digitize some of the world’s great (public domain) literature…and make it available to anyone for free.
Those are what I consider the top stories. In a later post, I’ll make my predictions for 2012…and look back at my predictions for 2011.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.