E-books Take Root

Here’s more evidence that e-books along with their augmented cousins – books with audio and visual and animated support – are here to stay:

Book titles reached 945,026 in May 2011, increasing by 47,000 over April 2011 (5 percent month-over-month increase) and by more than 740,000 since Kindle’s first anniversary.

eBooks with embedded audio and video clips increased by 290 in May 2011 (their 11th month in Kindle Store) and their number reached 600. Magazine titles increased by 8 to 94 while newspaper titles increased by 3 and reached 167. U.S. newspapers’ count was at 81 and international at 86.

Publishers are responding as well.  Capstone Digital’s myOn Reader program, which allows students to read targeted texts on topics of their choice, was recently released to much fanfare.  One thing seems clear: the market has made its preference clear and the publishing industry will look very different just five years from now.

Coming Soon: E-books Available Through Your Local Library

If you own a Kindle you may soon be able to check out e-books through your local library:

Amazon is preparing a new service called Kindle Lending Library that will allow users of its popular e-reader to check out Amazonian ebooks from 11,000 neighborhood and educational libraries.

“We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” said Amazon Kindle headman Jay Marine when announcing the service, which is scheduled to launch later this year, and which will be available to all generations of Kindles, plus other platforms running Amazon’s Kindle software.

That’s good news for Kindle owners.  Kindles, in addition to other e-readers, have become more popular with young readers.  By partnering with public libraries, Amazon is providing young readers with easy access to thousands of titles.  Students will be able to read more without having to pay for titles of their choice.

Just imagine: students may soon be able to create individualized reading lists through our own Find a Book tool and then check out the e-book versions, downloading them directly onto their Kindle.

Kudos to Amazon for partnering with public libraries to get more books into the hands of readers everywhere.

Amazon Offers ‘Digital Shorts’

In other e-reader news, Amazon has just begun offering a Digital Shorts section through its Kindle e-reader.  Digital Shorts offer readers the ability to buy short selections of digital text, e.g. short stories, pamphlets, essays, etc…  The benefit to consumers is obvious: it may no longer be necessary to purchase expensive anthologies or collected works.  Consumers will be able to pick and choose individual selections for immediate download – think of the iTunes model as applied to books.

Here’s Tech Crunch on Amazon’s latest offering:

Today, Amazon is launching Kindle Singles, which are Kindle books that are in the company’s words, “twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book.” Generally, Amazon characterized Kindle Singles as 10,000 to 30,000 words (roughly 30 to 90 pages).

Amazon says that Kindle Singles will have their own section in the Kindle Store, which currently has over 700,000 books, and will be priced much less than a typical book (although Amazon didn’t reveal a range of pricing for the new format).

Amazon’s Digital Shorts offers another benefit as well: exposure.  Amazon has already put out a call for serious writers, thinkers, poets to self-publish their work and make it available through the Digital Shorts section.  Here’s TechCrunch again:

It sounds like anyone can submit a story or piece to be included as a Kindle Single, and Amazon is using the announcement as a “call to serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians and publishers” to submit writings. As Amazon writes in the release: Singles are a “perfect, natural length to lay out a single killer idea, well researched, well argued and well illustrated—whether it’s a business lesson, a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event.”

The inability to access short-form works or single articles has been one of the chief limitations of the e-reader market.  It’s good to see Amazon taking steps to correct the oversight.  Click here to learn more.

A Tipping Point: E-readers Gain Momentum

Amazon recently announced that sales of e-books surpassed hardcover books for the first time.  This major milestone  lends credence to the idea that consumers are willing to accept content in a variety of forms.  No one is seriously arguing that physical books will completely disappear anytime soon.  But whatever the shortcomings of e-books, they are apparently not significant enough to deter consumers from embracing  multiple formats.  As Clay Shirky has argued in another context, the appropriate question is not whether readers will accept new technologies  and formats, but why they are reading in the first place.  Depending on their purposes, e-readers may fulfill those desires as much as physical books (possibly in a cheaper and more efficient way to boot).  Here’s The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle: (more…)

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