Hanwang Technology is aiming for an October launch of the e-reader, which will have a 6-inch screen and support China’s homegrown 3G mobile standard.
And other makers should be a tad worried for this has a fair chance of success because of the immense experience and expertise that lies behind it. So far it only offers e-readers that plug into a PC to load books and other content but the company’s e-readers include entertainment and other functions uncommon in rival devices.
Hanwang e-readers also let users scribble notes in their e-books with a stylus and store or erase them later. They allow voice recording and playback and can read e-books out loud to users. Hanwang also aims to launch an e-reader with a 9-inch screen in October.
As Hanwang looks to sell half a million readers in China this year, plainly the savings of scale and competition from other makers will bring that price down with a run.
When Penguin books were launched in Britain in 1935, no bookseller in the country would touch them. They were warned by book publishers that these were devices of the devil. Designed specifically to bring down a glorious — and highly profitable — industry. What saved Penguins and brought paperbacks as we know them was Woolworths. As so it was a cheapjack chain that started the paperback revolution that made book publishers so much money. Booksellers came later. They pretty much always do.
Publishers are aghast that these devices might be used to copy books and cut into their profits. That they will, there is no possible doubt. Publishers have to bite the bullet and find a way to work with the new technology.
Books, like computer software and DVDs, are widely pirated and sold at subway entrances and indoor bazaars in China. Pirated copies of everything from the Harry Potter series to self-help books like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People are peddled on street corners in major cities, sometimes for little more than $1. But this is also true of countries outside China. Not peddled on street corners but certainly available all over the internet.
Providing the price is right it will work. And work very well.
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