The company whose CEO proclaimed in 2008 that people don’t read anymore may now be poised to sweep in and school the electronic book reader market.
That company is Apple Inc., and its CEO, Steve Jobs, was predicting Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle would never take off. But if Apple’s talks with publishers are any indication, its “latest creation,” set to be unveiled Wednesday, could upend the fledgling e-reader industry in much the same way its iPod redefined digital music.
E-readers had been around since the beginning of the last decade, but in 2007 the Kindle advanced the concept by enabling books to be downloaded wirelessly rather than having to be plugged into a computer. Amazon has tried to push the device further into the mainstream by selling it for $259, down from the debut price of $399.
Analysts say the Kindle is the top-selling e-book reader, though Amazon won’t say how many it has sold.
Electronic books make up an estimated 3 percent to 5 percent of all book sales, but publishers and authors worry about Amazon’s growing clout. The company has been selling electronic versions of top hardcover titles for $9.99, and publishers fear that consumers who get used to such low prices will demand to pay less for paper books, too.
Enter Apple. The company won’t comment on what it plans to unveil Wednesday in San Francisco, but it appears likely to be a tablet — a one-piece computer with a big touch screen, probably larger than an iPhone but smaller than a laptop. While most attention has been paid to the device’s possibilities as a Web-surfing and video-watching machine, a multipurpose tablet from Apple also could be the publishing industry’s welcome challenger to the Kindle.