When I reported the speculation yesterday that Diesel eBooks might be shutting down in 5 days, I was hoping that I had gotten the story wrong. Sadly, that's not the case.
I have just received official notice from Diesel eBooks that they are turning off the lights at the end of March. It basically said the same thing as the message on the support page:
Diesel eBooks will be closing at the end of this month. It's been a great ride! We're exploring our options - eBooks are still in the infant years and there are many opportunities opening up now and in the future.
IMPORTANT: you must download your eBooks by month end. Downloads will not be possible on April 1st. We want to thank you for being such loyal customers. Understand this doesn't necessarily mean you won't see Diesel in another form in the near future.
If you have not received an email yet, I can explain; Diesel eBooks's email system is broken. I in fact got 16 copies of this one email, all sent within a single minute. Chances are the system is eating as many emails as it is sending, so some Diesel eBooks customers may never get a notice.
If you want confirmation, go check out the home page over at Diesel eBooks. Earlier this morning they posted an announcement banner with the news that they're shutting down.
Diesel eBooks was founded in 2004, during the pre-Kindle ebook era. It sold a number of ebook formats over the years, including eReader, Mobipocket, MSReader, PDF, and Epub. Most of those ebook formats predeceased Diesel eBooks, which says something about how much the ebook market has changed over the years. This retailer also expanded into selling ebook readers from 2009, and they also offered a rewards program and ebook bundles.
I've bought ebooks from them over the years (mainly in the pre-agency era). It was an okay site with decent prices, customer service, and tech support, and that should have been enough to keep it competitive. Unfortunately, Diesel eBooks is one of the smaller indie ebook retailers that never really recovered from Agency Pricing.
When the 5 publishers started the agency era in early 2010, the first thing they did was cancel existing contracts with ebook retailers and renegotiate. Guess who were the publishers' lowest priority for signing the new contracts? Indies like Diesel eBooks. It took some indies months and months to get the new contracts signed, and that cost them a competitive disadvantage.
And under the new system, the ebook retailers were unable to lower their prices on any of the titles published by the big 6, which limited their ability to attract and keep customers. Yes, fixed ebook prices may have prevented Amazon's price-gouging, but it also helped discourage customers from shopping around. That made it a heck of a lot harder for indies to pry customers away from the majors.
Diesel eBooks is now the second indie ebookstore to fail in the past year. The first was BooksOnBoard, which abruptly ceased operations last April. I doubt they will be the last.
Edit: I should also add that Diesel eBooks may not be totally dead. A few weeks ago its owners filed an antitrust suit against the 5 publishers and Apple that made up the Price Fix 6. Should they win the lawsuit they might be able to reopen.