BusinessWeek says digital books about to take off


People who currently read ebooks will tell you that they don’t want to go back to paper books. There are many small mobile gadgets like smartphones and PDAs that make excellent ebook readers and users can take them virtually anywhere so the current ebook being read is always at hand when some free time pops up. BusinessWeek has written an excellent article that explores the notion that digital books are about to take off, in part fueled by the imminent release of the Sony Reader. Publishers have been watching Apple bring digital music for a while and now that digital videos are making a splash with consumers the big publishing houses are realizing they are missing the boat, even though digital books are actually cheaper and easier to produce than other forms of entertainment. BusinessWeek describes the major publishers preparing to launch ebooks:

Yet Google is helping ignite the digital market. In November, following the lawsuit, Random House announced plans to digitize 25,000 titles. It will sell access to them to consumers, charging a per page rate for everything from novels to recipes out of a cookbook. In December, HarperCollins Publishers Inc. said it would build a digital warehouse of its entire holdings — another 25,000 titles or so — which it may later sell over the Net. is moving aggressively into digital books, too. It sells digital versions of most of its titles, available for download instantly. In August, it launched Amazon Shorts, a collection of stories, novellas, and essays that can be downloaded for 49 cents apiece. Later this year it plans to offer shoppers who purchase traditional books the chance to buy a version they they can read on the Web, too. That way they could keep Stephen King’s Cell: A Novel on their nightstand and read a chapter from any computer with Net access. “We think consumers increasingly are ready for it,” says Steve Kessel, vice-president for worldwide digital media.

Authors are beginning to take notice too and are putting some pressure on publishers to release digital forms of their books which should help provide the push needed to get the ebook train rolling. I love reading ebooks on my Treo and can’t wait to see this really take off.


Frank Gaeta

Ebooks for online reading only? Looks like I’ll just have to put away my scanner and run my snipping tool for my right to read purchased contents offline.

Ian Betteridge

Scotty, that’s a good reason why the market for dedicated ebook hardware won’t take off – but not why the market for ebooks themselves won’t work. What’s needed is a format that can be read on PDAs, tablet PCs, desktops, and everything else. Something like, oooh, Microsoft Reader? :)


What Newsweek failed to mention…

How many books will a Sony Reader owner purchase in the life of the device? 30? Take that figure, divide by $350 to $400 and you get the overhead per ebook for the device. Now factor in what appears to be only a 20% discount per ebook title and you are paying more (nearly double?) to purchase and read ebooks than to buy them as paper books.

Now Newsweek, please explain how the Sony Reader is going to “take off” unless Sony sells the reader for a lot less than is rumored. If Sony is confident of success they should sell the readers for $100 and sit back to scoop up the money from ebook sales. Except, even at $100 a pop, if you average owner only buys 30 ebooks, they’re still paying the same as a paper book.

With no annotation ability it’ll be a zero in the education market.

Hmmmm… still sounds like an early adopter device to me.

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