Monthly Archives: January 2008

Fictionwise Buys eReader

One of the best-known and most successful ebook retailing sites, our friend Fictionwise, has just purchased the venerable eReader from its current owner, Motricity. We are very happy and excited that Fictionwise has stepped up to the plate and that they will be taking over operations of what used to be the original Palm ebook store. We wish them and the employees of eReader all the best with the transition!

E-Reads has been working with both Fictionwise and the Palm format since the very startups of our companies, back when Palm format books were sold by The Peanut Press (later acquired by Palm and then Motricity). Fictionwise however has had a unique and meaningful relationship to E-Reads, not only because they sell our books in non-DRM (open) format, but because they have been extremely supportive and helpful to us as a small press, giving us prime real estate on their front page for our new releases, right alongside frontlist titles from major publishers. You may have noticed that they even host our ebook download section of this very website! As the ebook industry has grown, it has been thrilling watching Fictiowise not only keep pace, but expand the market with remarkable support for all the divergent ebook formats.

We see some very interesting things going on with this acquisition.

For one thing, the relatively quite small sub-world of ebook publishing is undergoing the same sort of conglomerization and “growth by acquisition” that mainstream book publishing has been dealing with for decades now. Welcome to the big time, I guess you’d have to say. Some win. Some move too slowly and get eaten. The law of the jungle prevails and the fittest survive by ruthlessly absorbing the laggards and growing stronger.

If you look at the history of eReader, though, there’s plenty of room for optimism that this change will be good news for all ebook publishing. Palm devices have been a platform for ebook reading pretty much from the very beginning and the proprietary software, once owned by the Palm company itself before it bifurcated and mutated into multiple entities, is a highly functional and nicely compact program that has benefited from trafficking a fair amount of total ebook readership and sales over the years.

Unfortunately, when Palm sold it off to Motricity, a company whose website slogan is “reinventing mobile lifestyles” and that has a big footprint in handheld content delivery, it seems like it became an ugly stepchild for a big company whose focus was mainly elsewhere. Sadly, not a lot of care and attention was lavished on its development, just at a time when the recovery from the slump that started early in the new century was beginning to turn around in a big way. All along, despite bitter disappointment at the fact that ebooks did not become instantly huge, ebook sales have shown long-term healthy growth…and there’s no end in sight. As the world’s accelerating transition to a digital existence becomes ever more widespread and convincing as a major ongoing phenomenon, the opportunities for any technology that lives in the nerve-center of that transition can only expand and multiply.

At the same time, the brothers who founded and run Fictionwise have shown a broad-based vision of the possibilities for ebooks in the marketplace, coupled with an absolutely catholic commitment to serving the readership across all fronts by making available as many ebook formats as have come along. We venture to guess that more titles in more formats are available from Fictionwise than from any other active source. The fact that Fictionwise has long promoted a DRM-free approach to marketing (while always accommodating the more-paranoid concerns of the big publishers who control the product from most big-name writers) is also a very encouraging sign. Their selection is big and their service top-notch. The benefits of having a Fictionwise account that tracks and remembers all purchases and can replace lost or corrupted files for legitimate purchasers delivers the best possible combination of bookseller, library and display window. They’ve also worked hard at building community among their customers and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them adding Social Networking aspects to their site. It’s nice to know that you can trade up on your hardware and still have access to your library of purchases. [John says: “If I bought a Kindle, I’d have some serious concerns about what will happen when a machine running a totally locked-down system like that decides to die the natural death that all electronic products have built into them. I maybe like a lot of books and love some beyond all sense but that doesn’t make me happy if I run into a situation where I have to start buying everything all over again. I’d rather have more control over my digital destiny than any one single proprietary format or device (however technologically cool it may be) is going to allow me.”]

Imagine how much better things could become for fans and consumers of the .pdb format now that a company that has demonstrated long-term commitment to and an intensive single-minded focus on ebooks as a business growth opportunity is in charge. Since they also have a savvy sense of the marketplace, having them in control of the development destiny of a neat program that has an active potential installed-base of tens of millions of pocket-sized homes is very exciting. In a market that’s showing continuing strong growth, the sky may really be the limit.

– John, Michael, and Richard