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Industry News: New Round of e-Reader/Tablet News, Google Buys Frommer’s, More Opposition to DOJ Settlement

August 18, 2012

While Amazon Determines Kindle Fire Release Date, B&N Drops Nook Prices

Apple seems to be the company everyone is reacting to in the table/e-reader wars. Amazon has dropped its prices on its existing line of e-readers and tablets, with the Kindle Touch 3G unavailable. Barnes and Noble has dropped prices on its line of Nook tablets as well. You can score a Nook Color for $149 and a Nook Tablet for $179. There are also rumors aplenty about Amazon price drops, as well as the release date of the next generation of Kindle Fire tablets. The new iPad mini is rumored to be released on September 21, placing Apple in direct competition with Amazon and B&N for the first time.

What this means to you: If you’ve been holding off on taking the plunge for an e-reader/tablet, this fall might be a good time to do it. Prices are coming down and features are increasing. The new Kindle Fire is expected to enhance the experience for all types of content,  including MP3s and streaming content, which Amazon just happens to offer. Amazon is also releasing an add-on to the Google Chrome browser that will send content to your Kindle, blocking ads in the process. There are some hypotheses that these feature-rich tablets will take a bite out of e-book sales.

Google Buys Frommer’s

Aside from owning the most dominant search engine in the world, Google has been expanding into the travel arena. Last year, it bought Zagat, the restaurant rating service. This year, it’s buying Frommer’s, a travel guide publisher. As the content business has moved online, Frommer’s has fallen behind companies such as TripAdvisor. However, with Zagat, Frommer’s, and software company ITA, whose software tracks airline flight status, Google is amassing a group of complimentary products that could easily become part of a larger product offering. Frommer’s was previously owned by John Wiley and Sons.

What these means to you: Frommer’s dominated the travel sections of book stores 20 years ago. Now, most of that content has gone online. This purchase is, in my opinion, confirmation that we’re moving away from printed content in ways we don’t even recognize. Google’s purchase isn’t being made primarily to publish travel books, but to augment a set of products that can fit together to offer an integrated service.

Gasp! Apple and Publishers Oppose DOJ’s Proposed Settlement

Apple and Penguin and MacMillan (the two publishers that have not settled with the Department of Justice), have filed a brief in which they oppose the Department of Justice settlement with Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and MacMillan. The lawsuit alleges that Apple and the five publishers colluded to implement the agency pricing model (where publishers set the book price, rather than sellers–and the seller gets a fixed percentage). In its brief, filed earlier this year, MacMillans charges that the suit would allow Amazon to engage in monopolistic practices. The agreement the three publishers entered with the DOJ calls for the termination of agency pricing within seven days of signing the agreement. Judge Denise Cote is ruling on the settlement in the near future.

What this means to you: It means you could see lower prices for books for three of the big six publishers. In terms of the case’s merits, it’s entirely possible that the publishers did collude with Apple and that the DOJ action will result in a more monopolistic environment for book sales. It’s clear that a DOJ victory here would be very good for Amazon, and bad not only for Apple and the publishers, but for Barnes and Noble as well.

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