The US market is probably around two years ahead of the UK market in terms of the penetration of ebooks. The market for ebooks there is growing fast and recent estimates put sales at around 10 per cent of the market – this compares to more like 2 or 3 per cent in the UK trade market. What will be interesting this Christmas is to see whether ebook readers – say the keenly priced Kindle from Amazon – will feature as popular gifts in the UK alongside print bestsellers such as Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. We perhaps also need a shift in terminology to accommodate the growth in reading of electronic texts, and industry insiders are already talking about the pbook (printed book) alongside the ebook.
Announced in the US this week is the launch of the new ebook service from Google. This draws on the books already digitized by Google and will offer millions of free books alongside ebooks for purchase. Taking books into the cloud, and therefore not stored on any particular machine, will enable readers to access their ebooks on a whole range of devices.
This is what Google say:
‘We designed Google eBooks to be open. Many devices are compatible with Google eBooks— everything from laptops to netbooks to tablets to smartphones to e-readers. With the new Google eBooks Web Reader, you can buy, store and read Google eBooks in the cloud. That means you can access your ebooks like you would messages in Gmail or photos in Picasa — using a free, password-protected Google account with unlimited ebooks storage.’
Quick to respond, Amazon have also announced a cloud-based service for the Kindle, to be made available in the coming months. See this article here in the Los Angeles Times
News about ebook loans has appeared on two fronts. Firstly Amazon has announced that from later this year Kindle users will be able to lend ebooks to other users for a period of 14 days – this feature is already available on the Nook, the reading device available in the US from Barnes & Noble. There will be some restrictions and it looks likely that the publisher of the ebook will also need to grant permission for this service.
Meanwhile there has been a dispute in the UK over the loan of ebooks by public libraries. Publishers have become worried about the remote lending taking place – even to library users in other countries. There is a suggestion that in order to prevent abuse of the system, borrowers should have to come into the library to download a book. Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said: ‘Our position is that we have to be certain that ebook lending does not pose a serious threat to publishers’ commercial activities – ebook sales. Untrammelled remote access ebook lending would pose such a threat, which in the end would be of no benefit to anyone, including libraries.’
You can read more in this Guardian piece here.