Monday, December 29, 2008

Ebooks in your pocket, along with your music, vids and pics, camera and phone

Some revolutions kick off with a whisper ... and I think I might have just heard one. In the last couple of months I've been lamenting the price of ebook readers such as Palm, Pocket PC, iRex, iLiad, and what have you. They're way too expensive to be attractive to the average reader who's thinking about switching to ebooks as an alternative to paper, to get the cost of a book down from about $25 to about $10 or less. And for this huge pricetag, the ebook reader does one thing: it displays ebooks. Hmmm.

Now, supposing you had a gadget that displayed your ebook, played your videos, and your music, was a calculator, a flashlight, a GPS-map reader, a 5MP camera, and had a slot for a 16GB SD card ... if you had the slightest interest in paying $25/week for the service, it'll also go online, connect to the Internet, get your emails, download anything you fancy ... and, uh, make phonecalls.

Yep, it's a phone. In fact, when it launched a very short while ago, it was nicknamed "the iPhone Killer." http://www.cnet.com.au/mobilephones/0,239025893,339289872,00.htm




In fact, it's Samsung's competition to the iPhone -- the Samsung Omnia. Where the iPhone entered the marketplace at US$500 (A$800 imported into this country, which put it outside the budget of even the most devoted phonoholic), the Samsung made its debut at US$249.99 -- half the price. And the price promptly fell. http://news.cnet.com/verizon-drops-price-on-samsung-omnia/

Right now, you can shop around and get deals on these smart-phones, but -- at least online -- I haven't seen anything divulging what the actual PRICE of the actual PHONE is ... that is, companies will cut you a $100 deal on one -- so long as you sign your life away for a 24 month "plan" allowing you to download stuff by the wheelbarrow-load.

Me? I have no desire whatever to have the Omnia connect to anything online. All I need is the card slot. I can download from my PC all the music, ebooks, pictures and videos I'm ever likely to want, and I have no need for another phone. It would be so useful if someone, somewhere, would quote the actual price of the gadget, as clearly distinct from a "plan" ... and I do believe I'll be chasing this up in the new year, because --

A 5MP camera, video player, MP3 player, ebook reader, map-viewer, calculator and flashlight all rolled into one? Yes, please, where do I get this gift from heaven?! For more info on the Omnia, give this a click: http://www.samsung.com/au/omnia/

Now, to read ebooks on your shining new toy, you need to be running something called Stanza. This is an ebook reader program that's installed and ... does its thing. You download it from a website like this: http://download.lexcycle.com/. Stanza is the program that goes with the iPhone like bacon goes with eggs ... you know there'll be an equivalent that goes with the Omnia; maybe even Stanza itself, if Samsung pays a license fee to Apple.

For more about Stanza, go here: http://arstechnica.com/search.ars?Tag=stanza and here:
http://www.lexcycle.com/faq/how_to_get_books_onto_stanza_iphone

I first heard of Stanza a few months ago when Lulu.com announced that they'd just laid on a new service. For US$25 (A$35 - A$40 depending on how the exchange rate jiggles) they would take your .doc or .rtf and convert it to Stanza.

I wondered, at the time, how popular this would be with people, but I just read an article where one of the Apple gurus estimates they'll sell 40 million iPhones in 2009. The damned things are on sale in Walmart, for godsakes: "Supermarket giant Walmart will start selling Apple's iPhone 3G for $197 as from tomorrow, Sunday 28th, across the majority of their stores in America. The price, which is $2 cheaper than the official retail price, will tie customers into a two year contract with mobile phone network AT&T. The 8GB model will be the same available elsewhere, thereby ending the rumour of a potential, "Walmartised" iPhone; the move comes as Apple wants to increase the number of outlets where its iPhone is sold as it tries to reach 50 million units sold by end of 2009." http://www.itproportal.com/articles/2008/12/27/walmart-sells-apple-iphone-tomorrow/

Now, along comes Samsung with the gadget nicknamed "the iPhone killer," at half the price in its debut week ... and it does a hell of a lot more.

It's a safe bet that by the end of 2009, somewhere between 25 and 100 million users in affluent nations will own one of these things. I'll most likely be one of them -- not that I'll use it as a phone. I just need all the gizmos and the SD card slot.

That means, maybe 60-70 million users who have the hardware to read ebooks.


Not all users are readers. Maybe one in ten of these users will actually like to read! That's maybe seven million readers with the hardware to read an ebook by this time next year.

And one in ten of them will enjoy a good gay book. Target potential marketplace for Keegan-on-gizmo: 700,000.

Now, at US$25 per title to convert a book at Lulu.com, it's going to hurt. I'm looking at dropping another grand, in AUD, to even get to the starting line in this race...

But this story has a happy ending: Smashwords.

This, from Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords:

Smashwords integrates with Stanza, optimized for iPhone
We made a couple important introductions today at Smashwords that I'd like to share with folks here. First, we unveiled integration with Stanza, which means Stanza users can browse and download, directly from within Stanza, our small but growing catalog of multi-format, DRM-free ebooks from indie authors. We also released a new iPhone-optimized version of the site so folks using the iPhone/IPOD Touch's Safari browser can more easily browse and discover books.

When we launched our public beta of Smashwords back in May, MobileReaders gave us some great feedback that we were able to quickly build into the site. We welcome feedback again from those of you who are using the iPhone and Stanza.

For instructions on how to import the Smashwords catalog into Stanza, see:
http://blog.smashwords.com/2008/11/s...tanza-and.html
Thanks,
Mark
Mark Coker

Founder, Smashwords, Inc. http://www.smashwords.com

And from the perspective of the writer or publisher, here's how it works: you register with Smashwords, open a free account -- and publish titles free. You upload a .doc file, and the company takes care of file conversion, digital fulfilment, billing, tracking, reporting. Their share is 15%. It's the proverbial good deal.

I'm looking into it even as you read this. For indie publishers, 2009 looks like being very different, and it's actually quite exciting.

Stay tuned! The iPhone isn't available via Amazon at this time, but there's an interesting range of smartphones -- worth a look:



Cheers,
MK

1 comment:

neelanc said...

Mel,

Happy new year. Thanks for the feedback regarding the Omnia. We are evaluating different platforms currently as directions to take Stanza.

Do you have a link regarding the lulu $25 conversion service?

Thanks,
Neelan Choksi
COO, Lexcycle

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