Last weekend, the missus brought it to my attention that Borders had started to sell their own eBook reader in-store. This comes at a time when Amazon have had the market to themselves for ages with their Kindle before the Apple iPad made its recent entrance and the launch of the iBooks application on the iPhone. Another player that has also entered the market in the last few months is the Nook from Barnes and Noble which combines an “E Ink” screen with a traditional LCD screen.
It seems that every major player has their own eBook reader be it in hardware or software form.
I guess the obvious question is why would Borders sell an eBook reader that could threaten the viability of their store fronts that are selling the device and undermine paperback sales?
On one hand, the market will look for the best price whilst looking at the convenience and speed of purchase. It could perhaps be a poor decision to remain ignorant of a new opportunity that could help Borders break into a new market and make the transition into digital content. On the other hand, such a move may impact sales of legacy content (i.e. paper books) and whether or not such a hit would be acceptable to shareholders is an entirely different matter.
I’m not blind to the fact that companies exist to make money and have to withstand the challenges of competition (either from other market players or emerging technologies). Competition forces companies to innovate to thrive and survive, particularly in harsh economic times. However, changes that involve altering the fundamental business model upon which a business is built can be difficult to impossible to achieve. We are seeing this challenge across the board in the content industry with respect to books, newspapers, magazines, films and music.
Perhaps paper books will never completely disappear and I reckon we will still have traditional libraries for a long time to come. I think this move by Borders is a bold one but I can’t help but feel there is a hint of desperation. This coming decade will be pivotal for digital content publishing and delivery so it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.