Thursday, April 19, 2007

An E-Reader Whose Time Has Come? Maybe

Tuesday night was ugly, but I finished proofing my proofs yesterday morning around 6:30. As I write this, they're in a FedEx box on their way to 375 Hudson Street in New York.
Over the last two years, I've periodically talked about my belief that all that's needed for the e-book market to explode is the appearance of a viable e-reader that users will embrace the way music lovers did the iPod.

Last week, in my post of April 12 here, I declared myself vindicated when Dr. Mark Nelson, PhD and MBA, from the National Association of College Stores said: "Once an effective e-reader is invented and interface problems are solved, "e-readers will take off as fast as iPods did."

As new e-reading devices have been launched, I've reported on each.

On September 28, 2006, Sony announced the release of its long-awaited Reader (see it here). At that time, I pointed out that the proprietary nature of the Reader's format was a serious problem. The Reader could only read books downloaded from the CONNECT site. I said I thought Sony's best market for the Reader would be people who were already reading e-books--customers who are now downloading from online publishers like Ellora's Cave or from retail sites like Fictionwise. To my mind, asking customers to fork over $349 and then insist that they buy their books from one site was terribly short-sighted. Shades of Microsoft's closed source approach.

A few weeks earlier, on September 13, 2006, I'd talked about Amazon's planned e-reader, the Kindle. offered readers their first view of the Kindle here.

Engadget reported the Kindle was 4.9" by 7.5" by .7", making it slightly larger than Sony's Reader. Its weight was 10.2 ounces, making it slightly heavier than the eReader.

In 2005, Amazon purchased a French company called Mobipocket that produces a universal reader, which permits the downloading of all formats. Reports were that the Kindle would contain this cross-platform technology, making it capable of working on all devices (PCs, laptops, PDAs and cell phones) and in all formats.

Wednesday's Publishers Weekly (PW) reported on the buzz at the London Book Fair over the forthcoming release of the Amazon reading device.

The PW article didn't call the new Amazon reader by the name Kindle. Instead they reported Amazon has been giving U.S. and U.K. publishers a preview of its new reader. Victoria Barnsley, the HarperCollins UK CEO, mentioned the reader at Tuesday's seminar on green publishing.

According to publishers who have seen the player, the reader is a step up from the Sony Reader . . . The screen quality is reportedly as sharp as Sony, but the Amazon device has better functionality, and, as should be expected from the e-tailer, a first rate e-commerce option. Amazon is expected to release the reader this spring, although the exact timing may depend on how fast it can develop a critical mass of titles. (PW)

PW also reported the price is "expected to be above $400."

Wednesday's edition of Publishers Lunch also mentioned the buzz about the Amazon reader. Michael Cader reported that:

[P]ublishers are working away on creating files for Amazon's Mobipocket format, as Penguin CEO John Makinson noted the Amazon demand is 'part of what is driving' the company's current digitization efforts . . . Makinson says the short-term goal for Amazon is that 'something close to ninety percent of NYT bestsellers should be in e-book format' the day of the release of the print book.

Perhaps the Amazon reader is the one the market has been waiting for.

Stay tuned.


ERiCA said...

Excellent points, and thanks for sharing the research!

I'm definitely one of those folks you're talking about, whose waiting for the e-readers to become more cross-platform before forking over any cash. Like you say, the whole point is to let people read stuff on it. No sense buying something that prevents me from reading books from my favorite e-authors.

I sure hope there's an open-source type breakthrough in the near future!

Maya Reynolds said...

Erica: Thanks for stopping by.

I guess you and I will just have to wait and see what this new reader looks like before deciding whether this is THE ONE.