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Can Borders Unseat Amazon in the E-Book Market?

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Borders (s bgp) today launched both an electronic book store and two handset clients — for BlackBerry (s rimm) and Android 2.0 (s goog) devices — as it tries to compete against offerings from Amazon (s amzn), Barnes & Noble (s bks) and Apple (s aapl). According to Reuters, the new Borders eBook store boasts 1.5 million titles (both free and paid) and lags only behind Amazon in terms of volume. And similar to Amazon, Borders is embracing e-books as a platform across multiple devices, rather than taking Apple’s approach, which currently limits its e-books to iOS4 devices only.

Will following in Amazon’s footsteps guarantee the same level of success for Borders, currently the number two brick-and-mortar bookseller in terms of overall sales? Om believes that it’s Amazon’s game to lose, mainly because the retailer understands online sales world like few others — customers trust Amazon and its one-click purchase method. Still, the company may not be the guaranteed winner in this market: Barnes & Noble has already proven that a traditional bookseller can transition successfully to digital content. Last month, the company reported that its share of the digital market already exceeds its share of the retail book market, and Barnes & Noble Members are reported to spend 17 percent more after purchase of a B&N Nook e-reader. These recent successes could bode well for Borders.

Borders is leveraging Amazon’s blueprint for success with content viewable on multiple handsets and page bookmarking that follows a reader from device to device. The company has partnered with Kobo for e-reader software, which opens up Borders content on several standalone e-Ink and LCD devices that range in price from $119 to $169 — and the list includes two Sony (s sne) e-readers.

I took Amazon’s Kindle software for a spin on my Android smartphone last week, and today I installed the Borders eBook application on my Google Nexus One. The overall experience between the two is similar, but the new Borders application supports in-app shopping — a slight advantage over the Kindle software. And I like the lists that help you discover new titles to read, especially the blatant dig at Apple with the “Can’t Get These in iBooks” list. However, the overall reading experience in the Borders app lags: three fonts, no themes and, like the Kindle app, no support for notes or highlights. Similar to Amazon’s store, consumers can download a free preview of any title from Borders.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

The Price of E-Book Progress

11 Responses to “Can Borders Unseat Amazon in the E-Book Market?”

  1. Johnny Mac

    I would be more worried about tHe ApPle in the long run. Just wait until those publishers start releasing highly interactive color version of their eBooks on the iBookStore. These types of highly improved ebooks will punk the craptastic lame B&W eReaders like the Dwindle and Crook. Yeah Steve got game and this war has just begun. Think iPad. Think Color. Think InterActive.

  2. I don’t think Borders has much of a chance of unseating Amazon. Amazon is the biggest name in the E-book market, and Borders is having a lot of financial problems recently. I think Borders will have to struggle to even compete with Amazon in this market..

  3. Somehow, I doubt Borders will be too much of a threat to Amazon. Jeff Bezos is just too ambitious and forward thinking for Borders to really have a chance. It is nice to see other companies providing ebook options however.

  4. Yacko

    Borders with cash flow problems from time to time severe enough to lead to bankruptcy rumors. Borders which is closing its Waldenbooks subsidiary branches so fast it looks like it took measures from the CDC playbook to stem a spreading infection. Borders picked as the one of the likely 10-20 companies that will no longer exist as a brand in one or two years. Now trying to save itself by embracing the sale of DRMed nuggets of literature. You know, I don’t believe in miracles, but if this strategy does turn things around, this will rival Fatima.

    There are two kinds of readers. Those who will read a whole boring book with just black and white text and those who will only read a paragraph that accompanies a slide show. I’m in the latter group myself. The former group while large is just a small percentage of the population. Books, schmooks, it’s all going to be consumable video someday with a little text. The worst fears of the past era that television (video) will inexorably “dumb” things down will come to fruition. While Amazon and Apple can morph the meet this lowest common denominator, the “bookstores”, no matter how hard they try, will not be able to adapt to this new order. If Borders and B&N are content to serve that niche literature market and shrink in size, then survival may be in their future. That app will take Borders just so far, and that tiny book club is about it. If booksellers try to grow and actually rival Apple and Amazon’s content delivery, whatever format, they will spin out of control.

      • Yacko

        Right you are. E-ink is for real books, fiction with plot and descriptions and character development, or heroic non-fiction that teaches life lessons. But mags, tech, cooking, how-to, antiques, picture price guides don’t fit that mold. As long as the trad booksellers target the b&w crowd, they will be okay, but it is a limited market. E-ink reader prices are starting to free fall and the basic models will hit the Franklin-zone soon, electronic tchochkes that inhabit the land of misfit electronic toys. That is the best they hope for. Like the niche that fly fishing occupies versus spin&bait casting, surf casting, trolling or deep sea, an artesanal approach compared to the mainstream. Lest you think I don’t respect that side of the publishing divide, I do, but the weight of the media market is against them.