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.
Amazon.com 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.