Amazon's Kindle e-book reader will sell more than 380,000 in 2008, according to analysts at CitiGroup. UK retailer Waterstones agrees that e-books are the future and is putting Sony Readers into its high street stores.
The Kindle figures are based on positive reviews of the product as well as the way it's still topping Amazon.com's best-selling list. Analyst Mark Mahaney reckons a Kindle is going to be the must-have item for this Christmas, pointing out that his predicted sales are roughly the same as those achieved by the iPod in its first year, particularly impressive as the Kindle can only be sold in the US as it requires access to the CDMA network over which its whispernet connectivity operates. He also reckons that by 2010 the Kindle will be contributing $1 billion annually to the online-bookseller-turned-everything-emporium - four per cent of their total revenue.
But it's not just Amazon who are backing electronic books in 2008 - Waterstones will be selling Sony's Reader product from the middle of September, as well as pushing content through its website. Putting the Reader into shops makes a lot of sense as it's impossible to convey the quality of the electronic-ink screens used on e-books, and many people change their opinion of the idea on seeing one with their own eyes.
Electronic ink technology has great potential beyond electronic books, and the Kindle is much more than an electronic book. Always connected over its whispernet network - actually a mobile phone connection - it heralds a new way of using wireless networks, and puts a great deal of power into the hands of the device manager (Amazon in Kindle's case).
Sony's product is closer to what one would expect from a book - it lacks the connectivity to offer new ways of interacting, but by allowing punters to see what they're getting it could serve as an introduction to electronic books, and pave the way for some more interesting deployments in the future. ®