Gemstar says Good-Bye to their eBook Business

Gemstar today announced that they are leaving the eBook Business for good: ...enough rope !?
"It is with deep regret that Gemstar eBook Group Limited must announce that we are scaling back our eBook operations and that we will ultimately be winding them down.

We are both proud of, and grateful for, your support and would have preferred to continue our business in its present form. Unfortunately, however, we are not able to do so under today's difficult market conditions."
Citing "today's difficult market conditions" for the complete failure of their business strategy is ludicrous. As a publisher of tv-guides, Gemstar never really had a clue how to market this kind of concept. For them it was just another way to make money from publishing rights - at least that's, what it was supposed to be...

Unfortunately the clunky and costly hardware stood constantly in the way of this goal. Then there was that cumbersome process to put new content into the device. It always gave me the impression that the Gemstar engineers never even got close to a palm syncing with a pc !?

But the main problem was the content itself. Coming from the consumer-oriented tv-guide business, Gemstar focused on equally consumer-oriented book-titles for their eBooks - big mistake !! Because the Gemstar eBook is was quite expensive and only real book-enthusiasts would be ready to spend so much money for a book related product. But these kind of people - including me - want to have real books in their hands, want to feel and perhaps even smell it. What they definitely don't want is to stare at a cold LCD-display for hours... So with this kind of strategy, the Gemstar's eBook business was doomed from the start !

But I still believe there could have been (or perhaps still is) a market for eBooks: just sell it to people who need lot's of information from publications - e.g. consultants, lawyer or CPAs. These groups are often far away from their books-shelfs, while depending on the information which is "stored" there. So why not create a service which combines a subscription to these publications with a device that makes it easy to access them anywhere anytime without the hassle of unpacking and booting up a laptop ? In comes the eBook !

Such a device wouldn't replace a PC oder laptop, but books, like the big red ones that German lawyers are used to carry around all the time. Think of it as the iPod for professionally used information...

About two years ago, I pitched this concept to the head of Gemstar Germany. He afterwards told me several reasons why this wouldn't work and the consumer model would. Actually, I don't remember what he said exactly. But considering the way his strategy played out in the end, there probably is no need to remember.

Anyway, at least their cover-art was quite appropriate - even kind of prophetic, wasn't it ? ;-)