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Striatic: woman in bed with laptop and P books

What will it take to get e-books off the ground for typical readers? Is the Amazon Kindle launch enough?

Not really, if you go by a new report from MarketIntellNow, a TeleBlog advertiser not associated with any hardware or software vendor. The for-sale report, based on a poll of 5,000 Web users, analyzes people’s book buying habits and amenability to reading devices like the Kindle, Cybook, iLiad or Sony Reader. See Inside the heads of prospective e-book buyers: A Q & A with Marie Campbell of MarketIntellNow for more details on the report.

Right now, as hinted by this photo of a p-book fan—E, too?—laptops are far more popular than special e-reader gadgets. Will that still be true in the future?

Interestingly, too, the survey suggests that dedicated e-book readers had better look good, a factor in the Kindle debate. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said an uncool design would stop them from buying an e-book reader.

Lower prices: More important than readability and convenience

Potential cost-savings are a more persuasive reason to buy e-books than readability or the convenience factor of e-books, the report also says. Consistent with that, it predicts that a “significant” number of e-books will be “ad-subsidized on some level”—a finding that should please Adobe’s Bill McCoy, who talked of such possibilities in the Newsweek article that Steve Levy wrote on the Kindle.

Let’s just hope that the advertising will be restrained, as I urged in a Publishers Weekly post (inspired by speculation that the Wall Street Journal will go free on the Web).

In the e-book area, Analyst Marie Campbell at MarketIntellNow presents a scenario of static content with advertising generated dynamically at the time of reading.

The laptop surprise

Now back to the issue of reading devices. Like many serious readers of e-books, Robert Nagle and I favor PDAs and small devices designed for reading. But surprisingly, the report found that consumers are generally comfortable with using laptop-based readers to read e-books, just the market that Wowio is aiming for with its PDF format. Could this also be good news for Asus, assuming that its econo-laptops are powerful enough to do PDF justice? And now about the OLPC laptop, which offers higher screen resolution than Asus and which you can even fold up into an e-book-friendly tablet?

The lack of a portable dedicated reading device just for e-books—which has often been blamed for poor e-book sales, will not be a significant factor deterring people from buying e-books—says the report. On the other hand, the price of individual e-books will be a deterrent.

Good news for Adobe PDF—in the popularity of laptops

People’s preference for laptop/tablet solutions over dedicated readers has many implications for me. If you extrapolate from the report, Adobe Reader PDFs may predominate. Also, consumers will have more control over e-book reading software rather than relying on the hardware manufacturer to make those decisions. There is also the possibility that multimedia platforms like Flash and MS Silverlight will turn into e-book reading platforms as well.

Of course keep in mind that the report reflects present consumer tastes; people sometimes don’t know what they want until it exists. The IDPF’s .epub format could change the rules, with its ability to be displayed on laptops and PDAs alike—thereby satisfying consumers’ hopes that one file can work on all their devices. Ideally the same format will show up on dedicated devices, as, in fact, is the plan of Sony and ETI. And Amazon, too, in time? As supporters of e-book standards, we certainly hope so. For more information about the Amazon Kindle in an .epub context, see Amazon-sized egos? Kindle reader to shun IDPF e-book standards? And, yes, the ugly box is the FINAL design (my post in PW). Also of interest for those curious about the Kindle might be TeleRead’s discussion of the Newsweek article.

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