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Surprising Science

Amazon’s Kindle No Longer the Only Show in Town

The e-reader business is burgeoning. The New York Times reports that sales of e-readers are predicted to increase by 500 percent this year, from one million to over five million. Best Buy, in cooperation with Verizon, wants its piece of the pie; they are set to release a new e-reader, the iRex, in the U.S.

But not everyone is so hip to e-readers. Jason Epstein, founder of the New York Review of Books, and Steve Jobs, a man who needs no introduction, see e-readers as too limiting in their current format. What are their visions? Read on, techy soul…

Epstein’s company, On Demand Books, has reached an agreement with Google Book to make available Google’s sizeable digital library on his Espresso Book Machine (imagine a vending a machine that prints the book you want, one copy at a time). Currently, the machines are not readily available, but now that the Espresso Book Machine has access to over two million digital books from Google, Epstein wants to augment their presence (duh).

In an unpublished interview, Epstein said that he could not imagine a world without books and believes that the classics—that ever-growing category of books which define our civilization—will forever exist and be read in printed format. The image of someone reading Homer’s Illiad on an e-reader is strange and wondrous.

Apple’s iPhone already supports the EPUB format and therefore has access to the same two million books as Epstein’s company. The main difference between Apple and everybody else in the digital book world is that reading a book on the iPhone isn’t so easy on the eyes. E-readers typically use a screen that is not back lit, simulating paper. Still, Job’s criticism of the e-reader is that it is too monofunctional for its price. The iRex will sell for $399.

Best Buy and Verizon will release the iRex e-reader which will operate on the Verizon wireless network. Users of the new iRex will purchase books from Barnes & Noble’s e-bookstore and be able to download digital content in EPUB format, such as that available from Google Book (Amazon’s Kindle does not support EPUB).


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