Google and Philadelphia, Here I Come!

Google today announced the launch of the first branded Google ereader to promote and integrate with their own online bookstore. Developed by iriver, the Story HD will sell exclusively to begin through Target stores in the USA at $140. The device looks alarmingly like a first, or at best, second generation Kindle. I have not seen or experienced a test drive of the device so I am not going to comment on it’s specifications other than it offers wi-fi and also a memory card slot. It might be the bee’s knees, but the launch and overall package on offer from a mammoth like Google, was…well – a little under whelming. When I posted the news on Facebook earlier this morning – ‘rinky-dinky-doo’ did spring to mind.

Google claim the benefits of the new device on their blog:

“You can also store your personal e-books library in the cloud—picking up where you left off in any e-book you’re reading as you move from laptop to smartphone to e-reader to tablet.”

Hmmm, nice…but I don’t know whether the cloud is current bad weather or just marketing wheel-spin to cover the deficiencies of this new device. Time will tell, but it is not the most auspicious start for Google and their branded ereader. I don’t understand the exclusive deal with Target stores and what the thinking was behind that. In many ways, Google, a couple of years ago, like an expectant mother, seemed to place too many eggs in the Google Settlement Agreement, and the whole muted fanfare of Google’s online bookstore and the launch of the Story HD device is looking like a damp squib.
For a start, there is nothing wrong with an ereader for the masses, simple in design and providing access to millions of ebooks in the public domain, but the dogs in the street know the price marker for this device is a lot less than $140. I’d say at least half the price, and maybe then we would have a real game changer for the reading masses, young or old, technophile or technophobe.
In a not unconnected story today, The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News will become the first newspapers in the United States to sell an Android tablet to consumers who sign up for a digital subscription. Now, that is a clever marketing move just when our biggest news media providers are beginning to shutter off online content access.
Like the cell phone market from the 1990’s, the more astute managers of content media realise that you have to subsidise the initial cost of the device to draw the consumer in. That’s where Amazon missed the open goal with the development of the Kindle, choosing instead for format and exclusivity to control pricing, not just on their device, but the ebook itself. Life doesn’t work that way, and once other manufacturers come into the market and catch up – it becomes solely about how low will a content provider go to subsidise the purchased product, thereby allowing access to the network.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News piece again:

“In late August the publisher will launch a limited pilot project in Philadelphia, offering “more than 100, but less than 100,000″ tablets to subscribers on a first-come, first served basis. AdWeek reported this morning that the number might be about 2,000. If that project is successful, the company will offer more tablets in the future.”

This is simple cause and effect. I didn’t pay for my first cell phone in the 1990’s, it was subsidied wholly by my service provider. They wanted my signature on a contract for a period of time, not the €200 or €300 they could make on me upfront. By the end of the decade, I was paying €20 outright for a device which cost probably about €400. Now, I might be prepared to pay up to €100 for a subsidised cell phone! But right now, in publishing, despite the massive ebook growth, we have it ass about face! It’s about the entry price of the reader device and what a content provider can offer.
Sure, in ten years time we might refer to an ebook reader or ebook as a ‘kindle’, but like your mom asking you to ‘hoover’ the living room on Saturday, all she will want you to do is to take the vaccum cleaner for a walk. It’s nice to become a generic term in the Oxford English Dictionary, but it won’t pay any bills.
…and maybe I don’t want a yearly subscription to The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, New Yorker, The Times, or whoever else, but by all means, beckon me to your gate – tell me I’m getting something for nothing or half-price, but for god’s sake, at least do something for me.
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