E-Readers: They're Hot Now, But the Story Isn't Over

The Wall Street Journal on Dec. 1 has an interesting article on electronic book readers. "E-Readers: They're Hot Now, But the Story Isn't Over." By GEOFFREY A. FOWLER.

LibreDigital Inc., a distributor of e-books for publishers, says the overwhelming majority of e-book buyers are women who read e-books on an ordinary computer screen, mostly between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. A growing number of readers are also perusing books on cellphones.

Indeed, many e-book readers place limits on how and where consumers can use them. Only the Nook allows people to share some of their books with a friend by wirelessly transmitting them—and even then, you can share each book just once and only for 14 days. And only Sony's Readers make it easy to check out free books from Overdrive Inc., the e-book service used by many public libraries.

The e-book market is also caught up in a format war, with different companies limiting their devices to certain kinds of e-books, with file types such as .azw and mobipocket on the Kindle and .epub and Adobe Digital Editions on Sony. As a result, there's no guarantee an e-book bought from one online store will work on devices sold by a competitor.

Sony has tried to differentiate itself in e-books by supporting an open industry standard called Epub and digital-rights-management software from Adobe. Barnes & Noble recently said it will do the same. But Amazon, which dominates the e-reader market, has so far shown no signs of changing from its own proprietary format.

Amazon says it is working on making Kindle books play on more devices, including iPhones, BlackBerrys and PCs.

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