The Apple iPad is good news for the book industry – on this much, most analysts agree. But is the Apple iPad good news for manufacturers of e-reading devices? Depends on whom you ask. In a statement to reporters yesterday, Steve Haber, President of Sony’s Digital Reading Division, welcomed the arrival of the Apple iPad, which he said would help facilitate the shift from dead tree books to e-texts.
“The introduction of another mobile device, which includes digital reading as part of its functionality, is a good thing for the digital book business,” Haber said. “Mobile devices with reading capabilities will play a key role in the paradigm shift from analog to digital content. At Sony, we’re focused on devices optimized for digital reading and believe that digital books sales will surpass print sales within five years, if not sooner.”
The Apple iPad, in other words, will perform something of the same function as iTunes and the iPod: the device will widen the market, and help usher in an age of point-and-click sales. For Haber, it doesn't yet matter that the Apple iPad is technically a competitor. It matters only that the Apple iPad can help increase awareness and consumption of e-books.
Haber has always been something of a cheerleader for e-reading. In a Monitor article published in December, he predicted a major boom in e-reader sales. "It’s been building up for a year or so, but going into the  holiday season, it’s suddenly mass exposure, multiple players in the market, multiple players rumored to be coming into the market," he said at the time. "And that’s what drives innovation. Every year from now on is going to be a leap ahead.”
Of course, not everyone is so willing to cheer on the Apple iPod. As we have reported, Amazon, the maker of the popular Kindle e-reader, has been on the defensive in recent weeks, announcing a boffo royalty deal for self-publishing authors and a Kindle platform for third-party developers. Both moves seem intended to undercut the capabilities of the Apple iPad.