Cover Story: Are We on the Verge of an E-book Explosion?
Smartphones: Smarter E-readers?
This raises an obvious question: How important are e-readers to the overall success of e-books?
With over 2 million people using Lexcycle’s Stanza app, many consumers don’t seem to care about the differences between e-ink and LCD screens.
“Smartphones and 3G data networks are the main driver [behind digital sales] …,” says O’Reilly’s Savikas.
Neelan Choksi, CEO of Lexcycle, agrees. “My impression is that the ease of use being introduced with wireless and over-the-air access has had a huge effect on adoption. It’s probably the primary reason for the growth in content sales.”
The Chicken or the Egg?
It’s also clear that e-reader adoption is lagging far behind overall e-book adoption. According to Norris, most e-books are read on personal computers. He points out that, although Amazon will likely sell 500,000 Kindles by the end of the year, an estimated 110 million U.S. adults buy at least one book a year.
“… It’s important … to keep a degree of perspective when looking at the entire market,” explains Norris. “Because 500,000 … is still not a huge penetration.”
Still, many publishers are encouraged by the buzz about e-readers, and DisplaySearch, a research company specializing in display market research, forecasts e-paper sales (mostly used in e-books) of $9.6 billion by 2018, from $129 million in 2008. E Ink Corp. (which produces e-ink screens for Sony, Amazon and iRex, as well as most other e-readers) expects color displays to reach the market by 2010. E Ink’s vice president of marketing, Sriram K. Peruvemba, also says flexible displays will make e-readers more durable and practical.
Ultimately, many publishers agree that it’s about giving readers the chance to buy what they want where and when they want it.