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As eBook Readers Heat Up, Standardization Will Be Critical

eBook Readers
Competition is growing in the eBook reader market. There have been plenty of electronic book devices in the past, but in the past year or so the Amazon Kindle has grown in popularity and built some credibility for the struggling market. Now, Amazon claims that Kindle eBooks account for more than 30 percent of the company's overall book sales for books that are available in the Kindle format, and Sony is jumping in again with two devices to compete with the Kindle.

Conventional wisdom has long held that the advent of the personal computer and the Internet will result in the salvation of billions of trees as paper is rendered archaic and we get all of our information digitally. I have been hearing that for 20 years or so. But then again, I've also been hearing that the United States is going to switch to the metric system…eventually.

Amazon has been successful thus far with the Kindle, relatively speaking. However, the Kindle and its books are only available through Amazon. While Amazon is huge and does a tremendous amount of retail business, some analysts think that Amazon would benefit from expanding the outlets where the Kindle is available to gain more exposure.

The Sony devices will compete head to head with the Kindle for the eBook reader device market. The Sony devices have the storage capacity to hold about 350 books and a battery life of up to 2 weeks, but rely on a different eBook format. So, those who have already invested in building a Kindle library will be reluctant to make the switch. Similarly, those who build a library based on an alternative eBook format are less likely to migrate to the Kindle.

For businesses, the Kindle and the Sony eBook readers can be great tools to enable users to carry and read documents. The current generation of eBook reader devices are a significant step toward the Utopian vision of a paperless office. Like consumers though, businesses will be reluctant to invest in proprietary technologies that back them into one corner or another regarding eBook formats.

Ultimately, the success or failure of the eBook and eBook reader market is going to depend on establishing a standard format. If the industry can establish a diverse, device-agnostic marketplace then consumers can embrace the technology with some degree of confidence that their investment won’t become obsolete and suffer an ironic fate as a glorified paper-weight.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at tonybradley.com.

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