That could be on the horizon if the current rumors are on the mark. See Techmeme roundup with links to Computerworld, Wired’s Gadget Lab, PC World, Slashdot and elsewhere. The vendor is Skytone, and the relevant page is here. Vaporware or the real thing?
While the spec are weak—limited memory and storage and and a far-from-optimal screen—I’m reminded of Boswell’s quote about a dog walking on hind legs. It’s remarkable the creature walks, period.
If $100-$200 is the possible retail price, imagine what it could be for mass purchases, including those for school and library use. Domestic OLPC-style possibilities? And the right hardware to use with a well-stocked national digital library systems in the TeleRead vein?
The real issue: Will big publishers be ready for the tech?
But you know what worries me more than whether the tech will be reality—which will happen sooner or later? It’s whether big publishers will understand the potential of the global market here. Will they saddle e-bookdom will stupid DNAML-style proprietary formats, onerous DRM, and even more territorial restrictions? Or will Random House, S&S and the others instead prepare to reach billions of new potential buyers, with reasonably priced books—which people can conveniently own for real? Will shoppers really pay for a $25 e-book to run on a $100 machine? Oh, the folly!
Then again, maybe consumers shouldn’t worry excessively. If the current big publishers don’t shape up, plenty of smallfry will be around to become the next giants and take their places. The only negatives, beyond the loss of jobs, will be more difficult access to masterpieces now tethered to big publishers via copyright. But perhaps the big boys will sell off the backlists to raise cash.
Related: Jonathan Karp’s Publishers Weekly piece already mentions by Paul Biba and Michael Pastore—on the most common mistakes of big publishers, such as excessive staffing and insufficient accountability for individual titles. The piece suggests “12 steps to better books.” In a PW comment, Marion Gropen points out that small publishers are already doing what Karp suggests.