App of the Month: Aldiko Book Reader

In all of the fuss about Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Amazon’s Kindle, it’s easy to forget that there are a number of other apps out there used to read eBooks. One in particular is Aldiko, an app designed for Android smartphones that supports ePub, PDF, and Adobe eBook DRM. Like Kindle and Nook, the Aldiko gives readers access to thousands of books available for instant download to the app’s library. As for the library itself, the interface shows images of bookcovers on digital shelves for your easy perusal -- it’s similar to Apple’s iBook Store in that respect, but that’s not a bad thing in the slightest. Perhaps the biggest benefit to the Aldiko software is that it allows you to lend books out as well as download them from your local library right on the phone. This is even ignoring the fact that Aldiko has a powerful search function which allows you to find text, highlight, and create your own bookmarks. Oh, and it also offers massive amounts of customizability if you happen to be reading at night. Take a gander at the features on the Aldiko at the company’s website:


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From the Tech Desk

This Month: Has the eBook Agency Model Harmed Sales?
Over the course of a single weekend in early 2010, a seismic shift occurred in the way eBooks were sold in the Amazon Kindle store. This transition occurred after John Sargent, the CEO of Macmillan Publishers Ltd., flew out to the Amazon headquarters for a talk with the Internet retailer about their pricing structure for Macmillan eBooks. Sargent was interested in switching over to an agency model for pricing, rather than a wholesale distributor contract. Short version is that with the agency model, the publisher sets the price of the book rather than the retailer (which is what the wholesale distribution contract does).

Sargent had this discussion with Amazon in Seattle on Thursday, January 28, 2010, and then boarded a plane the next day. He touched down in New York and then found out that Amazon despised his deal enough to disable the “Buy” buttons on every single Macmillan release -- both print and digital -- so not a single person could purchase any Macmillan book from a website that is arguably the largest bookstore in the world.

Sargent, to his credit, took out a full-page advertisement in a special Saturday issue of Publisher’s Weekly to explain the kerfuffle. On the other side of things we had Amazon who didn’t tell anyone what they were doing. A number of articles on the kerfuffle made Sargent out to be a price-gouging, money-grubbing snake (I’m thinking of one at Kindle Nation and one at Business Insider), but to be fair he’s the only one who tried to communicate what was going on.

See, Macmillan had recently received a primo deal from Apple for sales of eBooks through the iBook Store app on the iPad. That deal was a release of the eBook on the same day as the print one, with a dynamic price of between $5.99 and $14.99 for the eBook version of the print title. Mind you, the bestsellers would almost always be priced in the $12.99 to $14.99. Amazon cried foul because it said that consumers wouldn’t pay anything over $9.99 for the eBook version of a new bestseller. Message boards across the web seemed to bear this truth out, as thousands of irate Kindle users took to the Internet to proclaim that they were never going to again purchase a single book from Macmillan.

Kindle readers and Amazon appear to have fixated on the $14.99 highpoint of the pricing scheme though, ignoring the fact that Macmillan announced they would price books as low as $5.99 after awhile. The switchover to the agency model also eliminated the “windowing” practice of releasing eBooks several months after the release of the hardcover or trade paperback title. Four of the other five big six publishers soon became signatories to this deal (Penguin, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Hachette Book Group), with Random House joining the proverbial bandwagon in late February of this year.

Amazon was absolutely 100% convinced that raising prices above $9.99 would spell the end of eBook sales. We’ve had the agency model for five of the Big Six for going on a full year now, and are probably in a decent position to determine the truth or falsity of Amazon’s standpoint during the whole game of chicken they played with Macmillan. So what’s happened to eBook sales of the “Agency Five” as some have called them? Have they seen a stark drop in all eBook sales for new books when pricing them at $12.99 to $14.99 (the high end of the scale)?

Not if a report released on April 14, 2011 by the Association of American Publishers is to be believed. You see, that report stated that the sales of eBooks across the board has increased 202.3% year-to-date since February 2010. Simon & Schuster have themselves seen sales of digital content increase by 117% over last year, a vast majority of which are eBook sales. So I think it’s safe to say the switchover to an agency model hasn’t affected eBook sales in any appreciable amount because, except for a vocal minority that amounts to maybe 30% of all Kindle users, many eBook consumers will purchase the digital version of a book they want no matter the price.

Particularly when it comes to novels -- and I’ve seen this with physical book sales -- if a book is enough of a bestseller and you want it enough, then you’re not really going to worry overmuch about price.

The end result of all this is that the naysayers on the Amazon Kindle forums have so far been proven wrong by the market forces that they seemed so keen to predict ahead of time. The people who have to have the latest release will pay the premium on release day for the eBook. Those who can afford to wait a little for the price to come down on the other hand will probably wait for the price to come down. At the end of the day, Amazon’s “the sky is falling” routine has so far borne no fruit.

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Matthew Delman has ten years of experience editing and writing for newspapers. He has penned articles on travel, business, education, and health, which have appeared in publications such as The Gloucester Daily Times,(Gloucester, Mass.), The Salem News(Salem, Mass.), and websites owned by Hello Metro. Matthew’s short fiction has been published in FISSURE Magazine (November 2010) and by Nevermet Press (April 2011).