Move over, Wii -- Electronic book readers poised to become this holiday’s hot ticket


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Sony’s Daily Edition is expected to hit store shelves later this year at $399. Credit: Sony Electronics.

Will digital books catch fire this holiday? According to an online survey, 1 in 5 shoppers said they planned to buy an electronic book reader such as a Sony Reader or Amazon Kindle this year. When asked what they would like to get as a gift this year, about 1 in 10 cited a digital book reader. Portable music players, once the hot holiday ticket, got just 3.4% of the vote, while game consoles came in at 6%, according to the survey commissioned by Retrevo, a gadget review website.


Likely buyers tend to be men, under 35 years old, living in the Northeast where more people use public transportation, and with an average annual household income of more than $100,000, according to the survey of 771 respondents. Of those who said they planned to spring for an electronic book reader, 62% said they would buy Amazon’s Kindle 2 or Kindle DX, while 32% favored the Sony Reader. Although Amazon and Sony dominate the business today, more devices are scheduled to hit the U.S. market within the next year, including the $399 IREX expected later this fall and Plastic Logic due out in 2010.

To give its online bookstore a competitive advantage, Sony today is announcing it is throwing the doors open to independent authors to publish electronic books on its site. Sony said it has partnered with two companies, Smashwords and Author Solutions, to help independent writers self-publish digital books on Sony’s eBook Store, which currently sells more than 130,000 titles. It also distributes millions of free public domain books via a partnership with Google. Amazon, on the other hand, boasts 350,000 titles for its Kindle readers.

Although sales of electronic books constitute less than 5% of the $25-billion book market, it’s a fast-growing category within publishing, said Chris Smythe, director of Sony’s online bookstore.

‘With digital, people tend to buy more books,’ Smythe said. ‘It’s easier, often cheaper, and you can get it right away.’

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.