Phones, PCs put e-book within reach of Kindle-less
Amazon's pioneering device may not dominate the market for long. Many phones are now sophisticated enough to be used as e-book reading devices.
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Amazon isn’t betting solely on the Kindle. It released an iPhone app for the Kindle store in March. It has snapped up some other developers of book-reading applications for smart phones, but these programs don’t use the Kindle store.Skip to next paragraph
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Shanna Vaughn, a university worker and voracious reader in Orange County, Calif., has been reading e-books on a computer or handheld organizer for at least ten years, but it was only an occasional habit until she got an iPhone last year. It’s mainly the convenience that’s winning her over: Because Vaughn can buy and download books nearly instantly to the phone, she doesn’t need to plan a trip to the book store.
Vaughn, 35, is not interested in a Kindle or a Reader.
“I never really wanted something that was a single-function device. I just couldn’t see spending ... $300 for a device where I’m sort of locked in to one retailer. Whereas my phone, that does everything.”
The Stanza app for the iPhone and the iPod Touch, for instance, has been downloaded more than 2 million times since last summer, compared with Rotman Epps’ estimate of more than 900,000 Kindles sold through the first quarter of this year. (Lexcycle Inc., the maker of Stanza, was acquired in April by Amazon, which does not disclose Kindle sales.)
“There will be a market for dedicated reading devices, but there’s potentially an even bigger market for reading on devices that people already own, like smart phones,” she said.
According to a survey of 2,600 adults by research firm Simba Information this spring, the most common way to read e-books is on another general-purpose device: the personal computer. It found that 8 percent of adults had bought an e-book last year, a high figure considering that Kindle sales were less than half a percent of the adult population.
Bob LiVolsi, the founder and CEO of independent e-book retailer BooksOnBoard, said two-thirds of his customers read their books on their PCs. Romance, thriller and mystery titles costing $5 to $7 are the big draw for his customers, who aren’t high earners and have trouble justifying the cost of a dedicated device.
Though adoption has been slow, PCs have had a big head start in e-books, said Michael Norris, senior publishing analyst at Simba. Their ubiquity also means they provide some camouflage to avid readers who want to “read a romance novel at work while pretending to work,” he said.
He’s even signed up for The Daily Lit, a service that sends out books in e-mail every day, broken up into chunks that take about five minutes to read on a BlackBerry or computer screen.
“I have books on tape, and then I have books on paper and as e-books,” Lisi said. “I want to get to where I’m reading a book a week, but I work, so I can’t do that.”