The book industry is eyeing up a new generation of electronic book readers. Could they replace the classic paperback? There were lots of e-readers at the Paris Book Fair – which just goes to show the amount of competition that exists. Everybody wants a slice of this emerging market.
E-readers have been around for the past 10 years but the technology has evolved and they are now almost as thin as a sheet of paper, with screens that are as easy to read as a conventional book. In fact they can even be read at an angle of 180 degrees.
This can be done because Dutch company Irex Technology has developed what they call “electronic ink” or “e-ink”, a thin plastic layer containing tiny particles that can be moved by electric fields into patterns, ie letters and drawings.
This new technology does not use much energy. It only has to be charged once or twice a month because it only uses energy to turn a page.
The only downside is content. Except in English, there is a very limited selection of e-books available. In Germany for example, only 2.5% of published books are available in digital format. Digitising books has only just begun.
Price is also an obstacle to developing this market. Several European countries, like France and Germany, impose higher VAT for electronic books than for paper ones. And then there is the problem of pirating – the sector’s worst nightmare.
But industry leaders are aware that the book industry has the opportunity to avoid the mistakes made by the music and film industries by offering consumers a credible product at a reasonable price.
So far, e-readers have had most success in the US, where Amazon sells its own brand. Kindle has access to nearly half a million titles, often at half the price of the paper versions. Books and magazines can be bought anytime anywhere via a reader with a 3G connection.
Apple have just brought out the i-pad, a multi-function reader which can also view photos and films and has internet access.
For more information about Kindle see
For more information about i-pad see
For more information about the Paris Book Fair see