Amazon's e-book aims to make paper a thing of the past
(Western Mail Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Technology experts and publishers say a new electronic reader will struggle to win a substantial slice of today's thriving UK books market. Amazon's "Kindle" is the size of a paperback and features a screen made to look like the page of a book to avoid the glare we get from PCs.
Launched in the US at $399, it can store up to 200 titles and offers 30 hours of reading time to reduce the likelihood of running out of battery power just before you reach the cliffhanger.
A book is expected to take around a minute to download, and owners will also be able to access newspaper and magazine content through a wi-fi connection or the telephone network.
But for all its innovations, publishers and technology experts were yesterday of one voice - it's unlikely to eat into our appetite for the printed word.
Figures from the Booksellers Association show sales of printed titles have grown every year since 2001 to their current pounds 2,813m.
Future technologies expert Dr Mike Reddy said the traditional book still has numerous advantages over its electronic counterpart.
Dr Reddy, of the University of Wales Newport, said, "The price doesn't sound too bad, but would you want to read it in the bath?
"How long would the battery life last for? I don't think it's the end of the printed word because no matter how good e-readers are the human eye evolved for reflectively lit objects.
"That's why people working at computer terminals have so many problems. Computer screens are luminous sources."
The kindle uses "digital ink" technology to fill the screen with black and white particles to give the impression of reading from paper rather than a computer.
Owner of North Wales publishing house Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Myrddin Ap Dafydd, believes the e-reader may take a section of the market for magazines and newspapers, but little else.
"I'm sure it will have some uses for things like newspapers, pulp fiction and that kind of thing.
"But I can't see people using them to store, say, reference books. It would be very hard to have a better way of finding something very quickly than actually having books on a shelf."
The market for digital books is estimated to be worth around pounds 7m to pounds 12m and Amazon is not the only firm to try to exploit it. Last year Sony released a similar device. Plastic Logic, based in Cambridge, are developing their own version of the e-reader, which is expected to go into production in Germany next year.
Psychologist Tom Stewart, of London-based technology firm System Concepts, said research shows people find it more difficult to read from a screen.
"The interesting issue about these electronic devices is that people seem to prefer paper for reading. There is something about paper that feels different. Devices like this can do something different, but I don't think they'll replace the paperbacks you pick up at the airport."
A spokesperson for Amazon said, "We believe that given time, the Kindle will take a substantial slice of the market.
"It took decades for video and music to advance to digital with CDs and DVDs and now digital downloads, but it happened. It happened because digital made the music and video experience better. We believe the same to be true for Kindle - that the reading experience with Kindle has advantages over paper books." The UK launch date is yet to be revealed.
Copyright 2007 Western Mail & Echo Ltd, Source: The Financial Times Limited
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