The Year in E-Books 2013

The Year in E-Books 2013

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. For a more numerical comparison between 2013 and previous years, I’ll be doing my Annual Snapshot in the next several days.

New programs from Amazon

This year has seen the biggest innovation not in hardware, or even in software, but in programs from Amazon.

While they are much more than that, you can think of them as ideas. It’s not even so much the implementation of them, but new ways of doing things.

  • Kindle Matchbook (at AmazonSmile…benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*): people had been talking about something like this since the Kindle was first introduced. You can get a reduced price (sometimes free) e-book if you bought certain p-books (paperbooks) from Amazon. One major publisher (HarperCollins) was onboard at the beginning. Has it worked? Well, it launched with about 75,000 titles, and there are almost 100,000 titles now. My impression is that the concept was well-received by customers, although they may have been a bit disappointed as to how many titles were available to them…in a poll I conducted, almost 60% of respondents had 1 to 10 titles on their list. For more information, see Kindle Matchbook has launched!
  • Kindle First (at AmazonSmile): Amazon Prime members can select one of a small set (it’s been four each month so far) of upcoming books…for free. This is yet another perk for Prime members. No way to judge the success of this, really, but why not? More information: Round up #217: Kindle Fire HDX giveaway, Kindle First
  • Kindle Worlds (at AmazonSmile): I think Amazon has started doing what Disney was known for doing…looking around for what is working, and then stepping into that market…hard. In this case, the success was “fanfic” (fan fiction), although Amazon is doing it differently. They license the properties from the rightsholders, and then anybody can write works in it (following certain guidelines), and the author, the rightsholder, and Amazon all get cuts. The most popular title is in the top 20,000 at the Kindle store right now (top 1 percent, roughly), so this seems to be working. More information: Kindle Worlds: Amazon mainstreams fanfic
  • Kindle Countdown Deals (at AmazonSmile): this is yet another way that Amazon gives us discounted books. These Kindle books go on sale for a limited time, and there is a countdown clock as to when they will go back up. There are about 2,500 titles in the program right now. This may be working: the most popular book in it right now is #218 paid in the Kindle store, and has nearly 900 reviews: More information: Kindle Countdown Deals
  • AmazonSource: this program encourages bookstores and, importantly, other brick-and-mortar stores, to sell Kindles and Kindle books. I get the impression that there was a widespread enrollment, although I don’t know. More information: Amazon saves brick-and-mortars? AmazonSource
  • AmazonSmile: this may be the biggest move for Amazon. They created a mirror site, where shopping is just like shopping at…except that you pick a non-profit, and half a percent of your purchase price of eligible items goes to support that charity. My guess is that we are going to hear some very positive news out of this within Q1 of 2014, especially from smaller, more obscure non-profits. More information: Smile.Amazon: support your favorite charity by shopping

Legal Actions: The Defeat of the Agency Model

There is a reason why there are lawyers who specialize in intellectual property. The publishing business is, well, a business…and legal actions are a part of that.

Macmillan became the last of the publishers to settle with the U.S. Department of Justice over the Agency Model’s use in raising e-book prices. Apple chose to fight on, and Judge Denise Cote eventually ruled against the technology giant. A separate action brought by states Attorneys general also prevailed, which will result in payments to e-book purchasers. There are still some loose ends to tie up, and Apple could appeal (and regardless, the Agency Model could return in the future), but this does feel like the end of an era.

Another important decision was made, arguably to the benefit of e-book readers, that Google’s scanning of p-books in libraries falls under Fair Use. It had taken years for that one finish, and it was good to see Judge Denny Chin make a ruling.

The shifting EBR (E-Book Reader) landscape

Sony, which had led the way with EBRs in the USA, quietly effectively withdrew from the market. Kobo, on the other hand, introduced the well-received Aura HD. Amazon updated the Paperwhite, and Barnes & Noble revamped the NOOK line…but the latter was a drag on the already vulnerable chain.

Tablets showed very strong growth, although I think support of non-backlit devices will continue at Amazon in 2014.

Update problems

There was a lot of buzz in the Kindle community about some updates that got a backlash. Cloud Collections were something people had wanted for a long time, but the way they were implemented on the Paperwhite seemed confusing and clunky to many. Similarly, an update to the new Kindle Fires apparently caused connectivity problems and freezing, at least for some. We look forward to solutions to these issues in the coming weeks.

Books about Jeff Bezos and Amazon were in the zeitgeist

Amazon CEO (Chief Executive Officer) Jeff Bezos has become much more visible, and that has led to more coverage.

Three of the big books were:

There was a bit of controversy when the first of those books got its first 1-star review…and it was from Mackenzie Bezos, Jeff Bezos’ Significant Other.

The success of these books, and the buzz they got outside the immediate Kindle community, suggested to me a generally higher awareness of the topic. I think Apple losing in court had something to do with it becoming of broader interest. That buzziness in turn probably contributed to all the coverage of Jeff Bezos announcing in an interview with Charlie Rose a possible “deliver by drone” program in a few years.

Those were some of my highlights for what was overall a very positive year. Feel free to share others, or your reactions to these, with me and my readers by commenting on this post.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

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