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.