Editor's Note: E-books and Our Future
In this issue, we’ve packed content galore on many of the most significant changes facing the industry. In addition to the features on the evolving retail landscape and ways to cut time and cost from production and manufacturing, there are three important articles on e-books.
While a few of our I-hate-everything-e-book-related readers may not be too happy about such extensive coverage, these stories explore important questions regarding the e-book market’s progress and future. I’m no doubt starting to sound like a broken record, but I have to say it again: The impact of e-reading on the industry can’t be ignored, and if this issue doesn’t convince you of that, I don’t know what will.
Of course, print is still most publishers’ bread and butter. And many people disagree about how significant e-books’ impact will be. Those who anticipate an impending “iPod moment” for books disagree about what form, or what technology, will bring this about.
Most players in the e-ink world believe the impact will be monumental.
According to the “E-Paper Displays Report” by display-technology information provider and consultancy DisplaySearch, the e-paper display market will grow from 22 million units to 1.8 billion units within less than 10 years—81 times its current size.
The cover story also paints a vibrant picture of today’s e-book landscape, and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. It also paints quite a portrait of the global e-reader market, with a roundup of 30 e-readers currently being sold. Representatives from E Ink Corp. have been cited as saying that there are 45 e-readers out there, but it’s unclear which devices they include in that tally. New devices seem to launch monthly now, while others have been discontinued as quickly and quietly as they came.
The fact is that the market continues to grow exponentially—so much so that it’s getting hard to even keep track of what’s out there.
It’s important to note that Book Business’ list of e-readers does not include some highly anticipated devices that have not yet launched, including:
• Plastic Logic’s eReader (pilots and trials are scheduled for this year, with the market release slated for 2010);
• Polymer Vision’s Readius, with its rollout display (which was scheduled for full release earlier this year, but was delayed; at press time, no new updates were announced, other than a comment on the company’s blog suggesting that “2009 will be the year for market launch of Readius and rollable displays!”);
• Onyx International’s Boox60 (which, as of press time, was promised to be released “soon,” according to the company’s Web site);
• Asus’ forthcoming (possibly by the end of this year) full-color, dual-screen, hinged-spine, book-like Eee Reader;
• iRex Technologies’ new DR800SG (what a catchy name), with an 8.1-inch screen and 3G wireless connection ($399.99), being launched in partnership with Barnes & Noble and sold through Best Buy stores. (iRex’s press conference regarding the launch was held the day this issue went to press.);
• And, of course, the rumors of Apple’s impending e-reader launch, which Apple publicly denied.
And more devices are surely on their way as you read this.
Book Business’ list also excludes other devices on which you can read books—such as the iPhone and Blackberry—but which are not dedicated e-reading devices (most of which feature electronic-ink displays).
The point is that this kind of explosion generally doesn’t come from a market expected to stay small.
Despite the influx of e-reading devices out there, Jeff Gomez points out in his Guest Column that little has changed with e-readers and e-books the past 10 years. Sony and Amazon brought e-readers to the attention of the mass market, but these devices have been around for some time (and have been talked about for decades longer), and obstacles to their mainstream adoption still exist.
One of those obstacles, suggests Digital Directions columnist Andrew Brenneman, may lie in the e-ink itself. Single-function e-ink-based reading devices may provide certain benefits to the reading experience, but will they be the devices that elevate e-books to their “iPod moment”? Check out his column.
What do you think? I encourage you to share your thoughts on these articles through our comments function on BookBusinessMag.com. With so many shifts taking place around us right now, lively discussion, and the sharing of ideas and perspectives can go a long way to helping the industry prepare for the future.