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Link Roundup: Electronic Books

PUBLISHED: January 28, 2009

Electronic books have been getting a lot of press in the past few weeks, what with the release of the Kindle 2 recently semi-announced and a host of competitors gearing up for a battle royale. Still, no one can really explain why you would want to pay $400 for something no smaller, no lighter, and no easier to read than a paperback.

1.Turning Page, E-Books Start to Take Hold

This was the piece that started the recent flurry of articles about e-books. Beginning with the question, “Could book lovers finally be willing to switch from paper to pixels?” the authors survey the e-book landscape with an eager eye. Some interesting stats include: e-books account for less than 1% of total book sales; and the devices are most popular among the 55- to 64-year old age group (perhaps e-books are the new large print?)

2. Amazon Set to Rekindle Its E-Book Reader

Wired’s gadget blog gets deep into the specs of the Kindle 2. The piece also does a good job of laying out the e-book reader’s prospects in the heartland, which are heavily linked to Oprah’s endorsement of the gadget last October.

3. Can an iPod Touch Tablet Kill the Kindle?

MediaBistro’s publishing blog, GalleyCat, wonders whether the rumored big screen (7 to 9 inch) iPod Touch will kill the Kindle and other ebooks on the market. Current iPod and iPhone users can read books using software like Stanza and ScrollMotion, but the screen is seen as too small to really curl up with.

4. What’s the Kindle Worth to Amazon?

This somewhat wonky piece in the NYT’s Business section does some fancy math to speculate how much’s shareholders care about the Kindle. Turns out they care a lot. The authors of the piece think that Amazon is banking on an iPod-esque success for the Kindle, in which case they would control the e-book market, the same way iTunes dominates the download market.


Brian J. Geiger's picture
The explanation is easy. Whether you accept it or not is not necessarily the case. Your comparison is not really accurate. The point of the Kindle and similar is not to make it easier to read a single paperback. It’s to make it easier to read an entire bookstore or library of books. Also: searching.
Waldo Jaquith's picture
I haven’t tried out a Kindle yet, but I did used to own a Handspring Visor that I’d use that to read books from the Guttenberg Project on long train rides and airplane flights. That’s how I came to read several books in the Sherlock Holmes series, Huckleberry Finn, and Tom Sawyer. The screen size was so small relative to the font size that I had to flip pages every few paragraphs, which was frustrating. But I kept doing it, because it was really quite convenient. Having so much selection at my fingertips was great. But buying e-books has never appealed to me because every time I checked, the price was just stupid. Often they were more expensive than the paper edition. might be pushing hard Grisham or King’s book, which might run for $15…and the electronic version is $17. That struck me as so asinine that I refused decided that I didn’t want to even participate in this business model. As I compare prices on Amazon now, I’m still not impressed. I can buy “The Forever War” for $16.50 in hardcover, or $12 on the Kindle. At least if I buy the hardcover for $16.50 I can resell it for $5. If I buy it for the Kindle, that’s a dead end, since I assume that’s got a license that prohibits me from reselling it (and a DRM mechanism to prevent it, too). “The Cellist of Sarajevo” is $14.27 in hardcover and $12.84 for the Kindle. Really? $1.43 savings? Is that all that it costs to print, warehouse, and ship the hardcover? The good news is that the price of electronic editions seems now to be less than the print editions, often about a third less, but that’s some pretty faint praise. iTMS has done so well in large part because it’s cheaper than buying an album. I could spend $18 for a CD, or $1 for the one track that I really wanted. The obstacle with books is that it’s relatively uncommon for somebody to just want one chapter of a book, or a handful of pages, and so that’s not even a model that exists with e-books. When I can buy a Kindle-like device for $100, we’ll talk. (Preferably something less hideous. :) At $360, not only is it way too expensive, but it’s also totally useless to me; there is no EVDO coverage where I live, so I’d basically be buying a very expensive brick. :)
Michael's picture
Michael · 15 years ago
Yeah, what Waldo said.
Matt Shaer's picture
Matt Shaer · 15 years ago
Hey Michael, Waldo: Just finished up a story on e-publishing at the indie level – you may both find it interesting. I certainly learned a lot about the direction/speed of digitization.
Jacob Silverman's picture
Good piece, Matt. I especially appreciated the comparison to indie music labels’ embracing new technology. Hopefully the big publishers will follow suit – otherwise, they’ll be as doomed and floundering (useless, even) as the big music labels are now.

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