Why am I, sucker for all gadgets Apple, secretly hoping the company will NOT announce its rumored iTablet later this month? Because I just got a Kindle and don’t want it to be immediately upstaged by Apple grooviness.
This has happened before: I got a Creative Nomad Jukebox MP3 player shortly before iPod hit the market in 2001. That first generation iPod may look clunky today, but trust me, it was compact and sleek next to the Jukebox. It was no bigger, as Steve Jobs said in his 2001 media introduction, than a deck of cards. I held out for a little while before succumbing to the iPod.
But back to the Apple tablet rumors, which are flying fast and furious, with a March debut now predicted by the WSJ. I’m dying to see what Apple comes up with and how it matches other tablet prototypes I’ve seen lately. The magazine biz, and heck, the newspaper biz, could use a device that marries potent imagery with text in a way websites have yet to do. The main reason I got the Kindle was to subscribe to periodicals in electronic form.
So far I really like it. I’d just hate for it to become obsolete a month after Santa dropped it down the chimney.
The music biz and vid biz have already learned the painful lessons of loss leadering. Now it’s the book biz’s turn.
The price war that has erupted in recent weeks is particularly dramatic — and spurred by lower e-book prices — but otherwise very similar to the ones that the record biz and vid biz has dealt with for years. Big box chains and online heavyweights price big hits low to draw traffic, and, presumably, bigger ticket purchases. This discounting tends to be especially heated during the holiday season.
So I had to smile at the WSJ story about rationing of these discount hits. A Boulder, Colo., book store buyer, who planned to stock up on the discounted books from Wal-Mart, Target and Amazon expressed surprise that they were limiting the number of copies that individuals could purchase.
But he shouldn’t be surprised: The chains have done exactly that for discounted CDs and DVDs. In fact when video sales started taking off in the ’90s — during the VHS era, mind you — chains like Best Buy regularly ran disclaimers “no dealers please” in their circulars. (Of course this was when people read Sunday papers, but that’s another story.) The chains were just as infamous for discounting hit music CDs, making it hard for mid-size chains like Tower to compete.
Been meaning to weigh on the book price war, but was caught up in a few assignments and didn’t get to it.
Here’s the thing: Price wars are not new. Chains use popular books and videos as loss leaders for bigger purchases.
Independent stores and content providers don’t like it. But does it destroy the fabric of our nation? In its request for a Dept. of Justice investigation, the American Booksellers Assn. predicted just that. Consider:
We would find these practices questionable were they taking place in the market for widgets. That they are taking place in the market for books is catastrophic. If left unchecked, these predatory pricing policies will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to maintain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public, and will allow the few remaining mega booksellers to raise prices to consumers unchecked.