Is 2009 the year of the ebook?

 Kindle 2There have been an spate of ebook reader launchers this year.  The Kindle 2 and then the Kindle DX followed by two new Sony ereaders, the Pocket Reader and Touch Reader due next month.  So the signs, from the manufacturers at least, are that ebooks and their readers are reaching a tipping point.  I’ll leave aside that in the UK the Kindle still hasn’t been launched but signs are good that we may get it before Christmas.  See Times article.

But are the manufacturers smoking crack? Is there a real appetite for ebooks or is it just of interest to a few gadget freaks like me.  I have a Sony PRS- 505 and just love it. For a review see my earlier post. But as much as I love the Sony ereader why would I walk across hot coals for the Kindle 2.  The reason is content.  Sony in the UK uses Waterstone’s as it’s content store and while they’re fine for airport pot boilers and the immensely erudite, serial killer genre I enjoy, it’s pretty limited. In fact, Waterstone’s have about 11,000 books for the Sony ereader. Amazon have 338,700 books available for the Kindle. 

The interesting thing is that the growth of ereaders is opening up a new technology demographic. Books are read, unsurprisingly, by an older,educated, upmarket demographic who traditionally aren’t the purchasers of the latest shiny toys from Silicon Valley/Tokyo.  But the Kindle user demographic is similar to book readers e.g. over 40’s.  In the case of Kindle 70% are over 40.

Read the article on Kindle Culture for more on this. I think this may be the point when the ebook comes of age because three core factors triangulate.  First the availability of deep content.  Enough books to satisfy the normal reader not just a junk hound like myself. Secondly, a form factor and price that makes it affordable and lastly a powerful, affordable wireless delivery channel (3G or at a pinch WiFi) so we can all spend a fortune on new books. Combine this with other content services like newspaper subscriptions delivered wirelessly overnight (hello Mr Murdoch) and you have a real winner.

So yes, I do believe this is the moment when ebook readers will stop getting strange looks, when using one makes you normal rather than a trainspotter in the world of book readers.  So come on Amazon – just do the deal with some UK mobile carrier and I’ll be queueing up write you a cheque.




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