The popularity of e-readers is on the rise

Along with Amazon’s Kindle, several other retailers have introduced their own e-readers.

Brent Renneke

Last December Amazon.comâÄôs Kindle became the most-gifted item in the companyâÄôs 15-year existence. Christmas Day of the same month brought another first for Amazon when books for the Kindle outsold AmazonâÄôs vast physical book collection, according to Amazon.com The Kindle, along with SonyâÄôs Reader , Barnes & NobleâÄôs Nook and a number of others, are called e-readers, and they are changing the way many people read their favorite books. An e-reader is a handheld device that allows the user to choose from a library of previously downloaded books. Once the book is chosen, the user can read the book on the deviceâÄôs six-inch display. Currently, the Kindle sells six of its books for every 10 physical book sales, Amazon Spokeswoman Cinthia Portugal said. âÄúWe are surprised that the number is so high this early on given that weâÄôve been selling physical books for 15 years.âÄù Accounting for much of the e-readerâÄôs success is the convenience that the device can offer, staff writer for Wired Magazine Priya Ganapati said. âÄúHow many books can you pack in your backpack âÄî three or four? With an e-reader you can have hundreds of books in one device that you can fit in your jacket pocket,âÄù she said. The library of books to choose from on a userâÄôs e-reader is made up of books that were bought from the specific e-readerâÄôs e-book store, which can be accessed through the deviceâÄôs free wireless connection. The ability to buy a new book from just about anywhere is an attractive feature to many users, editor for ZDNet.com and Mobile Gadgeteer Joel Evan said. âÄúItâÄôs pretty convenient to be able to impulse buy a book and have it available on your device in seconds.âÄù The e-book libraries of Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony offer the majority of their books for download for $9.99. Ganapati said this price adds to the reasons for the current popularity of e-readers. âÄúI can get the latest Dan Brown book for 10 dollars. I donâÄôt have to go to a store and probably pay more,âÄù she said. Before you can download the e-books to your reader, you have to buy the device at a price that is a point of concern for some. With most readers starting around $250, the e-reader may be more catered to people who read more extensively, Evans said. âÄúYou have to buy a lot of books to justify the initial purchase price,âÄù he said. University of Minnesota Bookstore Associate Justin Adams said the price is high for e-readers when other similarly-priced devices perform a number of functions, as well as read e-books. âÄúThe Netbooks we sell are only $50 more expensive than our e-reader, and you can do a lot more on a Netbook,âÄù he said. Besides the price, current e-book readers do have some other criticisms. Ganapati said current e-book readers like the Kindle are limited in the types of books that are readable on the device. The reason for these limitations is the lack of color on the e-readers, which makes reading texts like cookbooks and textbooks extremely difficult, Ganapati said. âÄúItâÄôs great for nonfiction. ItâÄôs great for fiction. But if you want to go outside of popular reading, itâÄôs not going to work for you,âÄù she said. Apple has recently announced the future release of the iPad . The tablet-based device breaks the limitations of current e-readers, according to Ganapati. The iPad is a device that has the e-book reading function, but it also adds the ability to check e-mail, watch video, listen to music and a number of other features. However, these added features do come at a price. Evans said that the iPad model would start at $499. âÄúWhile it will do a lot more than an e-reader, the price is higher to start with,âÄù he said. Ganapati said that the iPadâÄôs color display allows the device to better accommodate texts like magazines, newspapers and even textbooks. âÄúWhat Apple has done is it changed the game to where it is forcing [other e-reader retailers] to step up,âÄù Ganapati said. Apple has signed deals with publishers to bring textbooks to the iPad, Ganapati said. âÄúIt will probably mean a way to replace the notebook and textbook that most students carry to the classroom.âÄù The classroom is where e-readers could have a growing presence in the future, according to Evans. âÄúI think itâÄôs going to start in schools where kids donâÄôt have to take backpacks loaded with books,âÄù he said. Despite the e-readersâÄô growing presence in the world of literature, Ganapati said she believes there will always be a place for printed books. âÄúPeople still buy CDâÄôs. People still buy vinyl records. There is always going to be a place for physical books.âÄù