Cory Doctorow has an excellent column at Locus Online about the economic conundrum of e-book readers.

Frankly, book reading just isn’t important enough to qualify for priority treatment in that marketplace. E-book readers to date have been either badly made, expensive, out-of-stock or some combination of all three. No one’s making dedicated e-book readers in such quantity that the price drops to the cost of a paperback — the cost at which the average occasional reader may be tempted to take a flutter on one. Certainly, these things aren’t being made in such quantity that they’re being folded in as freebies with the Sunday paper or given away at the turnstiles at a ballgame to the majority of people who are non-book-readers.

Meanwhile, handheld game consoles, phones, and other multipurpose devices have found their way into the hands of people from every walk of life. In some countries, mobile phone penetration is above 100 percent — that is, a significant proportion of the population maintain more than one phone, for example, a work cellular and a home cellular.

This dovetails with what I was saying about convergence the other day, and my firm belief that it’s not going to be a device that tips e-books. When next generation mobile phones are ubiquitous, and can play my music, videos, games, deliver my emails and texts, display my photos, store my documents and provide internet searches (oh, and make phone calls), why would I want to pay US$300 for something that only reads books? In Australia, it’s even more daunting than that – Dymocks wants me to pay a whopping AUD$900 for an iLiad. I both understand and applaud their push into the e-book space, and let’s face it, without publisher and retailer support, it’s hard to see consumer take-up of e-books at all. But to me, convenient, affordable and easy access to content (masses of content) will attract me faster if I don’t also have to purchase, configure and get comfortable with yet another gadget.

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