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New e-readers look to replace print novels

A Que reader showing USA Today at CES
A Que reader showing USA Today at CES
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

The growth of E-Readers

In Newsweek’s Interview Issue, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos spoke about the future of literature and the current state of the written word. Not surprisingly, Bezos believes that electronic reading devices, such as Amazon’s Kindle, will soon eliminate the need for traditional print books.

What is surprising, however, is how rapidly Bezos’ predictions are proving true. The Kindle is the most purchased, the most “wished for," and the most gifted item on Amazon.  Furthermore, downloads of Kindle books have increased dramatically, from 35 percent of Amazon’s total book sales in May to the current rate of 48 percent. On Christmas day, Kindle book sales leapfrogged print sales for the first time.

New contenders entering the field

While Kindle still makes up the largest share of the e-reader market, a slew of new devices are vying to end its reign. The 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 7-10, highlighted a variety of upcoming reader devices. These new incarnations of mobile readers range from the durable, bendable e-reader, Skiff, to the business audience-focused Que, to the software application, Blio, which imbues regular laptops and smartphones with e-reader-quality graphics and voice capabilities. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) predicts that the overall sales of e-readers will double in 2010, prompting bloggers to declare this the year of the e-book.

Is the literature community embracing the change?

E-readers have benefits that are obvious to even the most dedicated paper-person: nearly any book is attainable within seconds, whole libraries can be taken on the train, and moving is made markedly easier. Barnes and Nobles’ new offering, the Nook, can use its video capabilities to change how readers interact with literature. Self-publishing tools potentially democratize literature by paying any writer for generated downloads.  Moreover, e-readers have the ability to fundamentally change the audience for literature. These platforms encourage reading amongst tech-savvy audiences who are eager to try out innovative new gadgets.

This ever-improving technology, designed with an eye toward creating a device for people who truly love to read, is clearly gaining a strong foothold in the literature market. This begs the question, is there something intangible that is lost in the experience of reading on an electric device, or is it time to embrace the future?


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