Anthony Astarita, Vice President Digital Products, Barnes & Noble; David Donovan, Senior VP of Business Development, Irex North America; Priscilla Lu, CEO, Spring Design; Bob Nell, Director Business Development, Sony Electronics; Fahad Manjoo, Technology Columnist, Slate, Moderator

Astarita: from their perspective it’s not about the reader, it’s about content and the ecosystem. If there is any justification for a single purpose device it is in the reading arena. Open from the perspective of allowing other devices into their ecosystem, but is a very, very complicated thing to do, especially in an open system. Thinks that customers will probably pick one provider and stick with it. Still in “round 1” of this space and easy to loose perspective about this. Much too early to tell who will win. Will not be a proliferation of devices out there and probably will only end up with 5 players in the end. Won’t end up like the music industry and the publishers probably will not let this happen and will try to see that there are a number of competitors in the end. Not clear to him that one company will end up with an 80 to 90% market share. Prices that were charged for best sellers were below cost and agency model is a strategic play against Amazon and trying to regain control over content. In short term prices will be going up.

Donovan: reading is a single task and if want to multi-task can use a different device. Device needs to cater to the use case. Consequences of an open platform gives consumer a lot of choice, but means a lot of customization needs to be done. Ereaders will get a lot cheaper. Device will become incidental eventually. Low end devices are setting an unrealistic expectation with consumers, especially with the addition of 3G which consumers don’t understand increases pricing a lot. Filed for bankruptcy. Will be reorganizing their debt and trying to get new financing. Still selling devices in Europe and are still “very much alive”.

Lu: has both an iPad and an ereader. An excellent entertainment device that crosses whole spectrum. For serious reader and professionals who need a large amount of text the dedicated reader is better. Will have color versions soon which will support video very effectively. It’s not about the hardware, it’s about the overall packaging and the consumer experience it creates. Most of their sales are international. Not a closed environment, like Kindle, their ability to localize content, search engine, dictionary, keyboard, etc. this gives them a big advantage. Alex is a B to B business model, not B to C. They want overseas Telco, for example, to be able to create their own closed model if the Telco wishes. Text is not like music, American music is dominant, but around the world this is not the case with books as each country is different. Each country will want to have its own experience based on its own language and culture.

Nell: it’s about a spectrum of products, not just one product. Dedicated reader has some advantages. Battery life measured in weeks for e-ink display. iPad is a different type of experience and a different type of product and is a place for both. Have a lot of competitors and it’s the total solution that is important. Global market is emerging and a global presence will be necessary to compete. Will need to tailor products and services to each particular country. Sony is a content company and they understand the “value of content” and believe that owner of content should charge its value and feels that agency model allows this.


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