Are the E-book ‘Barbarians at the Gate’?
Hawkins says Sony’s release of its Reader, which addresses consumers’ key usability requirements for e-book readers—portability, and having a paper-like display and long battery life—“is an indicator that the technology has come along to the point where it can meet consumers’ expectations for this type of product.”
Cole says, “There are some important … initiatives in the pipeline from our own company and others.” Recent initiatives by Sony and iRex Technologies have raised the profile of e-books; the Sony Reader’s and iRex’s iLiad’s displays are “almost paper-like,” says Cole.
EBooks also is launching eb20, a browser-based, online book reader, and it currently offers more than 25,000 titles in formats suitable for mobile phones and other handheld devices.
Jeff Steele, director in Amazon’s digital group, says, “Digital … represents a growing part of our overall business.”
Since May 2006, Amazon also has offered the Amazon Upgrade program, allowing customers to buy a digital version of a book once they have purchased the print copy. According to Amazon, tens of thousands of books and more than 30 publishers are part of the program.
Amazon also would not release specific sales data, but Steele says he expects strong e-book-sales growth for Amazon in 2007.
“This market is expanding rapidly in response to consumer demand: they want to be able to consume what they want, how they want, when they want,” Steele says. “Offering consumers the broadest variety of … access scenarios is key to unlocking the potential growth in this space.” BB
Brian R. Hook is a St. Louis-based journalist. He has written for numerous publishers, including Dow Jones, McGraw-Hill, and U.S. News & World Report, among others.