It Feels like a New Year’s Eve…

Just back from ten days away, doing not very much – swimming, shouting at the kids and reading (e) books. More on which later. I didn’t even check my email for the duration 🙂  But it seems that there’s been a flurry of stuff happening whilst I’ve been away. And a Christmas Eve piece from the New York Times seems an appropriate link – seeing as it summarises things pretty well – as seen from all the quotes below:

For a decade, consumers mostly ignored electronic book devices, which were often hard to use and offered few popular items to read. But this year, in part because of the popularity of Amazon.com’s wireless Kindle device, the e-book has started to take hold.

Of course, we’re still not really sure about the *actual* number of Kindles in the wild. But even if it’s not the hundreds of thousands that some pundits suggest, the Kindle has, if nothing else, forced the world (well, Americans anyway) to take e-books seriously. And publishers are beginning to notice. Some quotes from the piece:

Amazon’s Kindle version of “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” by David Wroblewski, a best seller recommended by Ms. Winfrey’s book club, now represents 20 percent of total Amazon sales of the book, according to Brian Murray, chief executive of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide…

“E-books will become the go-to-first format for an ever-expanding group of readers who are newly discovering how much they enjoy reading books on a screen,” said Markus Dohle, chief executive of Random House, the world’s largest publisher of consumer books…

At Harlequin Enterprises, the Toronto-based publisher of bodice-ripping romances, Malle Vallik, director for digital content and interactivity, said she expected sales of digital versions of the company’s books someday to match or potentially outstrip sales in print…

In other parts of the world, we’re not so lucky. In Oz (the country, not the movie), Kindle and Sony Readers aren’t sold, and the e-book range of trade titles is less than extensive. So it’s no surprise that the iphone is the device of choice and Stanza and eReader software the reading tools for the rest of us. The number of downloads of ebook reading software seems significant, and the offerings are beginning to spread beyond Project Gutenberg. From the NYTimes article:

Perhaps the most overlooked boost to e-books this year — and a challenge to some of the standard thinking about them — came from Apple’s do-it-all gadget, the iPhone

Publishers say these iPhone applications are already starting to generate nearly as many digital book sales as the Sony Reader, though they still trail sales of books in the Kindle format.

So it feels like there’s a change a coming. The devices are still far from perfect, the range of titles is still far from extensive. But (thanks perhaps to Oprah and her endorsement of the Kindle) 2008 seems like the year that e-books have reached the cusp of widespread acceptance:

Many book lovers are quite happy with today’s devices. MaryAnn van Hengel, 51, a graphic designer in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., once railed against e-readers at a meeting of her book club. But she embraced the Kindle her husband gave her this fall shortly after Ms. Winfrey endorsed it.

Ms. Van Hengel now has several books on the device, including a Nora Roberts novel andDoris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals.” She said the Kindle had spurred her to buy more books than she normally would in print.

Of course, we’re a long way from the itunes of the ebook world. But it’s getting easier to imagine such a thing becoming a reality – even for the most diehard lovers of print.

Indeed, a new day may be dawning – so kick back, have a sip of champagne and enjoy the fireworks to come. Happy New Year!!

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1 comment so far

  1. […] all happening though – kindle 2 in a couple of days and google getting in on the act. I posted on New Year’s Eve that it felt like a change was coming. Maybe it […]


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