To Infinity and Beyond
"Our 'Bestsellers in Print' list closely tracks with the New York Times' Bestseller List, Publisher's Weekly and USA Today," Violano notes.
eReader.com markets its e-books using newsletters, e-mailed to 500,000 subscribers.
"Every Thursday, the newsletters feature weekend specials, such as
e-book sets, by author, at a special price," he says. "Our customers tell us value is high on their list. E-books cost 25 percent to 50 percent of the price of a printed book. With e-newsletter discounts, customers can get an additional 10 percent off.
"Our customers also tell us they like the mobility of e-books. They can carry from four to 10 e-books on a hand-held device at any given time. And devices today can cost as little as $100 for a Palm Zire, though people are buying multifunctional devices such as Smart Phones or PDAs, which are integrated into their lifestyle."
Still a Niche Market
Violano maintains market growth will come from new readers, but the typical e-book reader is a male college graduate, no older than 35, with an income of more than $50,000. The challenge is to capture the 40- to 45-year-old book reader (typically female, Violano says, and making less than $50,000 annually) to flip open a laptop and access an e-book. Violano says his company's "Try Before You Buy" policy will go a long way to converting that group of readers.
"We also have user-friendly digital rights management," he says, which should help convert the technically challenged. "Every e-book we sell from a publisher is encrypted. The buyer needs a code to access the e-book. The access code is the credit card number the user used to buy the e-book online."
Overcoming these challenges, as well as the familiarity a bound book breeds reading it on a plane or train, or in the comfort of one's living room, is the next step for publishers and vendors of reading devices. But the commitment is there, and, as in anything else, time will tell if e-books will become the preferred form of delivering the written word.