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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Electronic books taking on at last?

In today's New York Times, writers Brad Stone and Motoko Rich ask, "Could book lovers finally be willing to switch from pages to pixels?"
Electronic book readers, largely ignored for the past ten years, are finally taking off, thanks to amazon's $359 Kindle. White, light, and about the size of a trade paperback, the Kindle was released a year ago, and appears to be creating interest in this new way to read books. It is selling so well, partly because of the recommendation of talk show host extraordinaire Oprah Winfrey, that stocks are currently sold out.
Sony, grabbing the window of opportunity in these hard times, has embarked on an intense publicity campaign for its latest version, the Reader 700. It comes equipped with a touch screen so readers can interact with the book by making notes (great for researchers, I imagine). It costs only slightly more, $400, and, in an echo of the first paperbacks, which were produced by Louis Hachette back in 1853, with the aim of selling cheap, light, readable books to travelers, it is being promoted in train stations and airports.
So what do the publishers have to say? HarperCollins, Random House and Simon & Schuster say that electronic editions constitute less than one percent of total book sales--but that figure is climbing, having tripled or even quadrupled in the past year.


Rick Spilman said...

My house is overflowing with books. The book cases are filled and books are stacked up in corners and along the walls in my office, bedroom and at various parts of the house. I have an image of my body being found one day under a mountain of books that has collapsed on top of me. I would love to have a single device that held a small library that I could slip into my pocket.

I have held the Sony Reader and I love it. It is sleek and trim and easy to read and will hold hundreds of books. I have a friend who owns a Kindle, which is also nice, if a bit clunkier than the Sony Reader.

The problem is that we are still in the middle of the format wars. Books bought for the Kindle cannot be read on anything but the Kindle. I don't want to be locked into anyone's proprietary format. In the mean time, I have a dozen or more public domain books on my Archos 605 Video player. I am now reading one of Melville's lesser novels. It works, not perfect but it is OK.

The publishers are still being very stupid in their approach to e-books. They have no printing, transportation or warehousing costs, yet some publishers, Penquin, McMillan, Harper-Collins, among others, insist on pricing ebooks like hard covers, which is to say higher than their mass market pricing for actual paper and ink books. Reportedly Amazon is taking a loss on every Kindle ebook they sell. Insanity.

One day I will rush out and buy an ebook reader, but not yet.

Joan Druett said...

That proprietary format business is new to me, and amazingly dense. It's like the printers that won't accept non-proprietary cartridges, only worse. Thanks for opening my eyes to this problem, Rick.