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Future Bright For e-Readership

9/15/2010 02:02:00 PM

Digital book readership is at about 4 percent of the book-reading population, according to a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey issued on Sept. 15.

The survey found about 35 percent of respondents said they had read a book the previous day, and 4 percent had read either a digital book or on an e-reader.

This factoid is a small part of a very large and interesting report on consumer print vs. digital reading and news-gathering habits, so it did not include what the figure was for e-readership last year.

When some anecdotal information is added to Pew’s 4 percent figure, it would seem e-readership is tottering on the brink of skyrocketing, and I think a price battle for the books could be in the offing.

Earlier this month, Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading business, said the company recorded its 10 millionth e-book download from the Sony online store in May.

Amazon’s Kindle is now available in Best Buy, and Amazon said its Kindles have been the best-selling products on the site over the past two years.

Barnes & Noble said it is transforming its entire business to take advantage of the e-book boom. The chain said in the year since the Nook’s launch it has given the company a greater market share in e-books than it has in physical books.

Now that the price war for the hardware is well underway, I expect something to start giving on the book side. This is a great deal more complicated because the publishers have price requirements. As it now stands, a new release holds the same price from all of the above mentioned retailers, $12.99.

Could people be persuaded to buy one e-reader over another because you offer new releases for a dollar less? I’m not sure, but hardware prices can only go down so far, and the content is the next logical area for price cuts.

It will be interesting to see this play out.

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