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The Next, Still Pessimistic Chapter for E-Books

The New York Times’ Brad Stone doesn’t really add much more about the next generation e-book readers like Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader, but since people reading the NYT aren’t necessarily reading GalleyCat (or tech-related websites and blogs, for that matter) the piece, which also looks at Google‘s plans for e-bookdom, at least gets the basics down – and the skepticism in place.

“Books represent a pretty good value for consumers. They can display them and pass them to friends, and they understand the business model,” said Michael Gartenberg, research director at Jupiter Research, who is skeptical that a profitable e-book market will emerge anytime soon. “We have had dedicated e-book devices on the market for more than a decade, and the payoff always seems to be just a few years away,” he said. But with the Reader getting attention (if not sales) and Amazon’s imminent e-book device on their radar, most major publishers have accelerated the conversion of their titles into electronic formats. “There has been an awful lot of energy around e-books in the last six to 12 months, and we are now making a lot more titles available,” said Matt Shatz, vice president for digital at Random House, which plans to have around 6,500 e-books available by 2008. It has had about 3,500 available for the last few years.

Still, some retailers remain wary – especially Barnes & Noble, famously invested in e-books until they got out in 2003. “If an affordable device can come to the market, sure we’d love to bring it to our customers, and we will,” said B&N CEO Steve Riggio. “But right now we don’t see an affordable device in the immediate future.”

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