When you ask Australian science fiction and fantasy author Kim Falconer what she thinks of electronic books, or eBooks, you get a pretty straight answer.
'I'm right on board with the growing eBook movement in Australia,' the author of the Quantum Enchantment series says. 'Don't get me wrong. I love 'real' books '” the pages, the ink, the smell, the touch '” but I'm also a fan of electronic delivery and all it has to offer.'
Falconer says she is 'thrilled' about the fact that her publisher, HarperCollins Voyager, has asked her to participate in the initial release of eBooks to Amazon's Kindle store, as it will allow her work to reach a wider audience, while giving readers more choice in how to consume it.
You get a similarly enthusiastic message when you speak to Australians who have already bought eBook readers. Sean Carmody, a Sydney-sider who works in the financial markets, bought an Amazon Kindle when the popular eBook reader was first released in Australia late last year. He says he liked the look of the 'e-ink' screen that the Kindle uses and gets about two weeks of battery life out of it. But the Kindle also offers him a high convenience factor.
'I tend to have 3, 4 or 5 books on the go at the once,' he says. 'You don't want to be carrying around several books.'
Sydney consultant and developer Roger Lawrence agrees, pointing out that his Kindle holds 1,500 books. 'For about half the price of a netbook, the government could've given a device to every child in the country, which would hold all of their textbooks (in mint new condition) for their entire K-12 and university career,' he says.
For many authors, and for many readers, eBooks and the readers that allow access to them, just make sense. But as with the adoption of all new technologies, it's not that simple. When you delve into the book publishing industry, it's clear that there are many competing interests and platforms that make the adoption of eBooks in Australia an ongoing debate and struggle.
Currently there are various options for Australians who want to stop reading bits of ink printed on dead trees and migrate their book consuming habits into the digital age. Many people consider Amazon's Kindle, which started shipping locally late in 2009, to be the marquee offering in the space. Although other eBook readers such Dymocks' offerings or the BeBook Reader have been available in Australia for longer, reviewers have praised Amazon's design and integration with its online catalogue.
The first Kindle was released in the US in 2007, with an updated model making its way to the market in early 2009. And for the first time, on December 25, 2009 (Christmas Day), more Kindle books were sold than physical books, according to Amazon.
Amazon didn't respond to a request for comment on how the Kindle was going in Australia, but in the US it has described the Kindle as the 'most gifted item' in the company's history. And anecdotally, when you speak to early technology adopters in Australia, many of them own a Kindle, if they own an eBook reader at all.
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