Friday, June 29, 2007

Ebooks: The Waiting Game

Book publishers have no favorite among the various ebook formats and are playing a waiting game, according to a new TechNewsWorld article.

"Ultimately, the consumer will decide what it likes," said a VP at Simon & Shuster. The status quo of publishers reluctant to take charge and shape the future is consistent with comments made at the recent "Ebooks 2.0" forum at the ALA annual conference I wrote about recently.

The waiting game presumably includes not releasing all popular frontlist bestsellers in ebook format at the same time they are made available in print. The cost of ebooks is also similar to print versions--and sometimes more expensive. Enthusiasts can expect to pay a premium until the industry shakes out. Some had thought it would be necessary to drop the prices significantly in order to build the market, but so far it isn't happening.

A great ebook reader device at a reasonable price is necessary for widespread adoption by the public, but Sony's reader and the iRex Iliad are far too expensive to be catalysts. On the horizon are new readers, such as Amazon's Kindle and Bookeen's Cybook, as well as others from Asia. Will any one of them capture the imagination of the public, dominate the market, and usher in the era of leisure reading with ebooks? The answer is currently inaccessible.