Paperbacks and hardcovers are giving way to e-readers

Victoria McNary usually finds romance and mystery in the paperback shelves at the grocery store. But one recent day she stopped into Barnes & Noble to consider curling up with a good Nook.

Bigger than an iPhone, smaller than a netbook, the Nook is Barnes & Noble’s entry into what might be the next great gadget war. It is challenging Amazon’s pioneering Kindle and Sony’s Reader in the quest to lure book readers from paperbacks and hardcovers to a digital device.

Amazon, Sony and Barnes & Noble all report strong interest in e-readers this holiday season, with demand outpacing supply for both the Kindle and Nook.

Meanwhile, with dozens of e-readers already on the market, Silicon Valley startups Spring Design and Plastic Logic are planning to unveil their own models in January. And anticipation is building that mighty Apple, secretive as ever, will put its big foot into the fray with a pricey tablet in the spring.

Publishers of books, magazines and newspapers are paying close attention to the evolving market that envisions tablet devices as an alternative to paper. So is Google, angling to build a massive online store of e-books.

E-readers, some analysts predict, will soar in coming years, changing the dynamics of the publishing industry much as Apple’s iPod changed the music industry. A recent report by Credit Suisse suggested that e-reader sales will soar from 1 million in 2008 to 32 million in 2014. Amazon doesn’t disclose Kindle’s revenues but the report said they could climb from $624 million in 2009 to $1.8 billion in 2014.
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No surprise here. I’m still not the biggest fan of e-books, but appreciate how the technology has developed over the past 12 months or so.