E-books and Cannibals

Slate.com has an article about the on-going negotiations between book publishers and vendors of e-books (Amazon in particular).  The sticking point?  E-books that cost much less than their hard copy counterparts.

“Authors and book agents also fret that low e-book prices will “cannibalize” hardcover sales, which will “undercut the sales and royalty potential of the printed hardcover,” as one agent puts it. One publisher of a hotly anticipated book is delaying the e-book by six or more months because he fears cannibalization.”

In “Does the Book Industry Want To Get Napstered?” Jack Shafer likens this fight to what occurred in the music industry in years past and comments on the likelihood of a rise in online book pirates.

E-book momentum

A front-page, above-the-fold story in today’s New York Times about e-books suggests that the devices are finding new readership and acceptance.

According to the story, “Turning Page, E-Books Start To Take Hold,” by Brad Stone and Motoko Rich, “[m]any Kindle buyers appear to be outside the usual gadget-bound demographic. . . . the device is most popular among 55- to 64-year-olds.”

The story concludes with a quote from a book reader who “once railed against e-readers” and who now is “in love with [her Kindle].”

But it’s not just the Kindle.  According to the Times:

Amazon.com’s popular Kindle is unavailable until February, creating an opening for Sony’s Reader . . . The increased competition could signal the public’s acceptance of the idea of reading longer texts on a portable digital device.

In addition to the Kindle and Sony Reader, the story makes reference to e-book applications and devices from Apple (iPhone), Fictionwise, Scroll Motion, Plastic Logic, Polymer Vision, Foxit Software, and E Ink.