Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Will the iPad Threaten Bandi & Luni's?

Will the iPad Threaten Bandi & Luni's?

In today's Korea Herald, this article appeared.  The article desribed the tablet PCs that have been released by Korean corporations, as the iPad is being introduced in Korea.   In the US, the iPad has become very popular in a very short period of time.  The Lost Seoul has been critical of the iPad, which has no USB ports for storage, and it is very expensive given the functionality.  That said, it is of course beautifully made, and for those that are dedicated to Apple products, there will be demand.

One feature of the iPad is the ebook reading capability.  It is stunning.  In addition to the eBook reader made by Apple, Amazon's Kindle software is available for free as well.  There are other very capable programs such as Stanza which is free (The Lost Seoul uses it for the ipod Touch). 

For Korea, ebooks represents a large opportunity for readers, particularly for Koreans that want to learn English.  Books which are written to help learn English can be packaged with sound, and be read on the iPad.  In addition, the price of eBooks is much lower than paperback.  For many of the books aimed at ESL learners, this is a great development, in that Koreans can purchase the best books at a lower price.  In addition, textbooks, where are largely in English, can be purchased online.

There are two potential roadblocks which, in The Lost Seoul's opinion, have prevented widespread popularity of eBooks in Korea.  Below is a picture of Bandi and Luni's at COEX in Gangnam, Seoul.  On the weekend, this bookstore is literally packed.  The picture below does not show the full extent of how crowded Bandi & Luni's actually is. 

This is the first problem:  going to bookstores is the event itself, and cannot be replaced by an eBook reader.  The number of leisure activities in Korea is quite limited.  Students are busy studying, and fields for playing sports of any sort is very limited.  These huge bookstores are full of young families who make a trip to the bookstore in order to buy books or just read the books, without actually buying.  That is the point:  have fun taking the trip.  How can the iPad replace that experience?  It cannot.

The second issue is more practical, i.e. there is not enough content (ebook) in Korea.  This can hardly be a surprise to those that have watched the Korean economy.  There are a great number of book publishers, and a great number of titles.  Books will typically cost KRW 11,000-15,000 for paperbacks.  The threat of eBooks is great because both the bookstore, and the book publishers' profits may potentially be hurt.  In addition, the entire process of book writing is being altered.  eBooks can be written and published through software on the Internet, with only limited contribution with the publisher of the eBook itself.  Now, that does not mean that all books will be published in this way, but there is a new way to write and sell books, if you are an author.  The bookstore could potentially lose a great deal of foot traffic.  It would not surprise The Lost Seoul at all if the bookstores are working with the book publishers in order to limit the growth of ebooks.  Working together would help both the bookstore, and the publisher.  Korean consumers have experienced this type of activity many times in the past.  For example, there was no logical reason for the delay of the iPhone's arrival. (Please do not believe the notion that technology was a barrier.)

Koreans interested in learning English should use eBooks as a good way of buying the best books for learning and reading..  Authors should use in order to create eBooks that can published cheaply, and sold on iTunes as well as  The beneficiaries of this potential development?  Koreans everywhere.


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