Online retailer Amazon.com has launched an e-book reading device, called Kindle, at US$399, according to this report.
The Kindle has received a number of advance reviews as it uses technology that brings the reader experience as close as possible to reading a print book.
That Amazon.com has decided to throw its weight behind the e-book reader indicates that the company is seeing a significant shift from print books to e-books, at least in developing markets like the US.
A lot of people are however going to hate this transition, including readers. Whatever happened to tucking into bed with a nice book to read, and the familiar rustle of paper, and the smell of ink and paper ? Will print books go the way of the vinyl record, wooden toys, natural Christmas trees ?
Don’t know if I will be able to make the transition. Perhaps our children will as they did with MP3 music. It would also be worthwhile investigating the impact of digital books on our informal culture of sharing books. It is not physically possible for me to let a neighbor read an interesting digital book in my catalog, unless he has a digital reader. In case he has a reader, it is also not quite clear whether it is lawful under copyright laws for me to beam my download to his reader.
On the flip side, e-books will push down the cost of publishing, as the cost of printing, paper, and physical distribution will go. Books will become more easily accessible, because they can be easily downloaded. Amazon is offering 90,000 e-books in its catalog, with most priced at US$9.99 each. Not yet basements prices, but e-books are bound to get cheaper as more vendors start getting into this market.