Are the E-book ‘Barbarians at the Gate’?
Regardless what statistics say, many in the industry have been curious how Sony’s Reader, which was released at the tail end of September 2006, has been fairing. Some believe that is a better indication of how quickly consumers will “take” to e-books.
“It certainly met or exceeded our expectations for sales last quarter,” says Ron Hawkins, Sony’s vice president, Portable Reader Systems. “Everything we’ve produced, we’ve shipped.”
Looking down the road, Hawkins says, “In terms of the three- to five-year time frame, our interest is in seeing this grow into a mass market, and certainly Sony’s not going to do that alone. We expect, as a result of our success … to see … other people entering all aspects of the e-book market, from publishing to other hardware devices to applications.”
Shaping the Market
To continue to advance the e-book market, Bogaty says more industry standards are needed. “With a standard file format …, customer confusion and the cost of producing digital books will both be reduced,” he says.
“I think this will be the year for the digital textbook and digital library,” he adds. “With the improvement in reading devices and software, the opportunity for consumers to comfortably and conveniently read digitally is quite impressive.”
However, Susan Spilka, director of communications at John Wiley & Sons Inc., Hoboken, N.J., says, “Digital rights management technology is still not seamless enough to deliver an acceptable user experience in many cases.”
Despite this, e-book sales at Wiley are growing. While Wiley does not provide sales data, Spilka expects “significant growth” in 2007. “For a nonfiction publisher like ourselves, business and technology titles consistently sell best,” she says.
Spilka believes initiatives like Mobipocket—a subsidiary of Amazon.com—will boost e-book sales growth. She also anticipates mobile phone content will start to gain traction.