E-books close to market
Dec 14 (DPA) After years of false start, e-books - thin, highly
simplified displays - seem to be getting cheap enough for
mass use. Thanks to a new technology known as e-ink, they
can now function for weeks without a battery recharge.
next year, Sony is to launch its PRS-505, a reader device
with a six-inch black-and-white screen, in Germany, Europe's
biggest market, after introducing it to booksellers in October
at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
launches this year in Britain and France have achieved good
sales, as did earlier models in Japan and the United States.
product's main rival, the Amazon Kindle, is only on sale in
the United States. The device is "this season's first
official sold-out holiday item," in the words of New
York book-publishing blogger Kassia Krozser.
try-out with the Sony Reader suggested that my aunt could
have read its biggest font size, seemingly about 18 points,
and easily found her saved books. You flip through the pages
by pressing a toggle switch.
260 gm, the PRS-505 reader seems heavy, because it is mostly
But in fact this is the same mass as a paperback book.
lettering is crisp. The screen contrast is less than on a
laptop display, but just as clear as with most paper books.
Ziesch, the Sony executive overseeing the content buildup
in Germany for the PRS-505, said no price has been set yet.
France the device officially sells for 299 euros ($400), which
is a sensitive boundary. Above that, a reader product bumps
up against low-priced laptops, which can also be used to read
price is also still a lot higher than the cost of a goose-necked
reading lamp, a pair of spectacles and a good magnifying glass,
as used by many elderly people to read.
season's e-ink readers still have two disadvantages: the image
cannot be scrolled smoothly and the screen is still smaller
than the print area in a paperback book. That is only really
enough space for a single column of text.
could be on the way.
in Germany, a factory in Dresden is stockpiling an as-yet-unnamed
product for a market launch in the first half of 2009.
is expected to have a black-and-white screen the same size
as the print area on a sheet of A4 paper. That's enough space
to fit headlines, maybe three columns, photographs and diagrams.
News and textbook publishers are paying close attention.
Logic, the manufacturer, which is based in the English city
of Cambridge, has not yet released final specifications or
wisdom is that e-ink products will take off once people can
actually save money by buying the devices and downloading
e-books, instead of buying paper books. Right now, that would
only apply if you read books from free sites only, such as
publishers greedily demand the same price for an e-book as
for the corresponding paper book, a lot of the incentive for
going electronic vanishes, as blogger Krozser frequently notes.
manager Ziesch said Sony is recommending that e-books be priced
no higher than 80 percent of the paper book price.
often complain that converting books to electronic form is
expensive, yet the effort required to create a rough pirate
version of a book, by copying from a paper version on a document
scanner, is not great.
example that worries many book publishers is the music industry,
where distribution has gone digital. In hindsight, the release
of the MP3 recording format in 1994 set the countdown running.
instead of getting ready, the industry spent 10 years in denial.
industry had a period of grace until all the digital technology
was in place, but the introduction of the iPod in 2001 and
the spread of broadband connections opened up the world of
was not till 2004 that Apple's iTunes Store was offering the
full range of music at a price consumers were willing to pay:
$0.99 per song.
was too late," said Ziesch, recalling the slow-footed
music industry's dawdling as it fought file-sharing piracy
instead of developing a digital business of its own.
sidestep some of the difficulties of dealing with a conservative
industry, Sony has partnered with Libri, a major book wholesaler
with long experience of electronic conversions, which will
do the technical part of getting e-books to consumers.
who read in bed or on the bus going to work are likely to
be the main adopters of products like the Sony Reader. In
the United States, new ventures are now offering 99-cent short
stories to precisely that kind of market.
a far bigger market may be in play if bigger displays become
available at a low price: visionaries suggest that many newspapers
and magazines may one day cease printing on paper and only
publish on e-ink.