Library in a Pocket By MOTOKO RICH and BRAD STONE
With Amazon’s Kindle, readers can squeeze hundreds of books into a device that is smaller than most hardcovers. For some, that’s not small enough. Many people who want to read electronic books are discovering that they can do so on the smartphones that are already in their pockets — bringing a whole new meaning to “phone book.” [snip]
“These e-readers that cost a lot of money only do one thing,” said Keishon Tutt, a 37-year-old pharmacist in Texas who buys 10 to 12 books a month to read on her iPhone, from Apple. “I like to have a multifunctional device. I watch movies and listen to my songs.”
Over the last eight months, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and a range of smaller companies have released book-reading software for the iPhone and other mobile devices. One out of every five new applications introduced for the iPhone last month was a book, according to Flurry, a research firm that studies mobile trends.
All of that activity raises a question: Does the future of book reading lie in dedicated devices like the Kindle, or in more versatile gadgets like mobile phones? [snip]
But there are already 84 million smartphones that can run applications in the United States alone, according to IDC, a research firm. Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones and iPod Touches, which both run e-book software. Apple itself doesn’t see the iPhone as the ultimate reading device. Next year, it is likely to further stir up the e-book market if, as expected, it introduces a tablet computer — a device bigger than a phone that will most likely run e-reader software along with other programs intended for the iPhone.
People once scoffed at the idea of reading a book on a 3.5-inch mobile screen. For many readers, though, sheer convenience trumps everything else.
“The iPod Touch is always at hand,” Shannon Stacey, who has written several romance e-novels, said. “It’s my calendar, it’s my everything, so my books are always with me.” Ms. Stacey, who also owns an early Sony Reader model, said she had now bought twice as many e-books for her iPod Touch as for her Sony.
Ian Freed, vice president for the Kindle division at Amazon, said customers still bought more books to read on the Kindle than they did for its iPhone application, though he declined to disclose figures. Amazon is working on e-reading software for the BlackBerry and for Macintosh computers; it introduced software for Windows PCs last week.
“It’s a surprisingly pleasant experience to read on a small screen,” said Josh Koppel, a founder of ScrollMotion, a New York company that has made some 25,000 e-books available through Apple’s App Store and has sold more than 200,000 copies.
Companies like ScrollMotion and BeamItDown sell books in the form of individual applications, so novels like “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer show up right in the App Store. Amazon and Barnes & Noble give away e-reading software instead; users buy the actual books through the browser on a phone or PC.
Publishers are now rushing to develop new forms of books to cater to readers who will see them on smartphones — books that will not work on today’s stand-alone e-readers. When Nick Cave, the rock musician, wrote his second novel, “The Death of Bunny Munro,” he and his British publisher, Canongate, worked with a multimedia company to develop an app for the iPhone that incorporated not just the text but also videos, music composed by Mr. Cave and audio of the author reading the book. “What you can do with graphics and moving images creates a lot of possibilities for a publisher that have never existed before,” said Jamie Byng, Canongate’s publisher.
“The Kindle is for people who love to read,” Mr. Freed of Amazon said. “People use phones for lots of things. Most often they use them to make phone calls. Second most often, they use them to send text messages or e-mail. Way down on the list, there’s reading.”
Indeed, Sarah Wendell, an administrative assistant in Manhattan who blogs about romance novels, said that although she used the iPhone to read while on a coffee or lunch break, she still used her Kindle during her one-hour commute from New Jersey.
But Mr. Bryant acknowledged that the iPhone, while convenient, did not serve every reading purpose. “I’ve got a 3-year-old at home, and he really digs books,” Mr. Bryant said. “I remember pilfering my parents’ shelves, and if everything is on the iPhone, he’s just not going to have that visual temptation. So we keep the shelves loaded.”