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The eBook Universe 2014

Earlier this year Mike Cane posted a redacted version of an old flow chart from 2009. The chart dates from 2009 and lays out the major players of the ebook market at that time.

As 2014 draws to a close, I thought it would be useful to repost the flowchart and reflect on just how many key players are gone.

To start, here’s the original:


And here’s my chart. It’s not quite the same as the one Mike posted in April; he crossed off Irex and PlasticLogic but I left those logos unredacted because the companies aren’t actually dead yet.

Update: A reader has told me that Irex kicked the bucket for the second time, so I’m calling it dead. Thanks, Zetmolm!

I also left Asus unredacted because this company still makes smartphones and tablets, and thus it deserves to be on there almost as much as the iPhone.

the ebook univrse 2014

Of all the names to survive the purge, Scribd is the one which surprises me the most. They weren’t a major player then and they’re not now, but they have moved up the list from "nobody" to somebody.

Shortcovers (you now know them as Kobo) is the other huge surprise. Seriously, who would have predicted that a shoestring operation launched by a Canadian bookstore chain would grow into a global competitor? And more importantly, win in a market where Sony _lost_?

This flowchart reminds me why I don’t like to make long term projections. I mean, had you asked me in 2009 to pick either Cool-ER or Shortcovers, I would have picked the former – only to see it quietly go bankrupt in the middle of 2010 when it ran out of money.

Would anyone care to guess which names will still be on this chart 5 years from now?


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Kate December 26, 2014 um 1:50 pm

If you left Asus on there because they make smartphones and tablets, then shouldn’t Sony still be there, too? Sure, they closed their bookstore and don’t sell pocket-size ereaders anymore, but they still make tablets and phones, not to mention the DPTS-1 which is a letter-size epaper document reader.

Nate Hoffelder December 26, 2014 um 2:03 pm

Good point. I’m tempted to go cross out Asus, but one important difference is that Asus makes more mobile devices (globally). I think an argument can be made to keep one and not the other.

Paul December 26, 2014 um 2:08 pm

amazon, apple, but not Barnes & Noble. They would be replaced by a different company (might be same product though).

StevH December 26, 2014 um 3:09 pm

To be complete, technically Smashwords and now Oyster should be on there as a 'content providers'.

Nate Hoffelder December 26, 2014 um 11:36 pm

If we wanted to be more accurate then Amazon would look like a hydra, and Scribd/Oyster would go in a single spot. Also, Smashwords would get lumped into a single point with all of the other distributors.

fjtorres December 26, 2014 um 4:24 pm

The only certainties are Apple, Google, and Amazon.
Maybe ASUS if you count WinTabs and twofers, but then you have to include Microsoft.
(Which I would. WinTabs are building momentum.)

Zetmolm December 26, 2014 um 4:36 pm

Irex is completely dead. In 2010 Irex went bankrupt but then started a second life as IRX Innovations. However, IRX Innovations was also declared bankrupt recently, on the 29th of October of this year.

Nate Hoffelder December 26, 2014 um 4:44 pm

Thanks. I hadn’t heard about the second bankruptcy.

And the website is gone, so I guess this time the death was permanent.

Nate Hoffelder December 26, 2014 um 8:05 pm

Do you know what is happening with the assets?

I found this website and the two reports filed by the administrator (free, but reg. req.). But I can’t read them:

AH@badassbookreviews December 27, 2014 um 11:45 am

When I first looked at your chart, I was wondering where Kobo was. Then I saw the little chapters-indigo. OK, I thought, maybe that’s Kobo. I haven’t heard of them being called Shortcovers. Do you have any info on that? In Canada, they are still being marketed as Kobo.

Nate Hoffelder December 27, 2014 um 11:58 am

Kobo was launched as a shoestring operation in 2009 (or possibly 2008). Its original name was Shortcovers. The name was changed to Kobo in December 2009, at the same time that the tiny company picked up outside capital investors and retail partners in the US, NZ, and AUS.

In short, Kobo didn’t exist when this chart was made in 2009; it was a Canada-only operation called Shortcovers.

AH@badassbookreviews December 27, 2014 um 12:59 pm

Thanks! I always learn new things from your blog.

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