Curling Up With a Good E-Book

Are we ready to embrace the spoken word on the go without lugging around a leafy paperback novel? Ever since Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) announced its plans for its electronic book browser, Sony Reader, earlier this year, folks have been asking that very question.

Unlike e-book readers of times past, Sony promised a crisper interface that would be easy on the eyes. Although the popularity of e-books could come at the expense of traditional booksellers, it found a willing partner in Borders (NYSE: BGP  ) .

Though unproven, the Sony Reader is also attracting the attention of competitors. Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) is offering up the Amazon Kindle, and the 3-inch screen of the Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Zune has some wondering if it too won't have e-book readability in the future.

I'm still not sold on the niche. PDAs, laptops, and cell phones offer the ability to read text and graphics, but those appliances also perform more basic functions. Pure appliances like the Reader and Kindle look neat, but will consumers be willing to lug around one more gadget?

Also, portable entertainment has been a better sell in the world of audio. Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) may have done well with its video-enabled iPods, but it's the digital music and spoken podcasts that made iPod the juggernaut that it is today.

You can play tunes as you jog around the block or drive over to work because your eyes can still be on the lookout for the neighbor's dog or merging traffic. Consuming e-books is more conducive to a stationary setting like waiting at the dentist's office or hopping on a bus. While there's clearly a market for that, now that eyes have to battle eardrums for attention, it's a market for the dollars and senses. I'm not one to concede that the eyes will have it.

Microsoft is anInside Valuerecommendation. Amazon.com is aStock Advisornewsletter selection.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. He is a member of theRule Breakersanalytical team, seeking out the next great growth stock early in its stage of defiance. The Motley Fool isinvestors writing for investors.


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