If you've been spending any time reading up on tech lately, you probably noticed a big trend in the last few weeks: e-books are suddenly everywhere.
The relative tidal wave of announcements and rumours got kicked into high gear with the official announcement of Amazon's follow-up to the highly regarded Kindle e-book reader, the Kindle 2. With its svelte exterior, improved readability and the addition of a high quality yet controversial text-to-speech function, the Kindle 2 got the tech and book crowd pretty excited.
That excitement seemed to develop a life of its own as more and more e-book news started hitting the wires such as Hearst Corporation's plans to launch an e-book reader of their own, but specifically targeted to the newspaper and magazine industries. Then, almost as an afterthought, Amazon announces that they are releasing a Kindle app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Suddenly, e-books are no longer the exclusive domain of bulky gadgets like the Kindle 2 or Sony's eBook Reader.
The Kindle App is a game-changer: suddenly 12 million iPhone users (and countless other iPod Touch owners) will be able to buy books and read them whenever and wherever they please, with a user interface that may not rival that of a dedicated reader but certainly works for the casual commute in to work.
Unfortunately, neither the Kindle 2 nor the Kindle App are available in Canada. Though there are small signs this may change, it's obvious that the same legal hurdles that needed to be overcome before Apple could offer its iTunes product here, must also be dealt with before we get a chance to join the Amazon e-book party.
However, this delay could be a perfect opportunity for local book powerhouse Chapters-Indigo. This week, the company announced their own e-book strategy, consisting of an iTunes app and a website called shortcovers.com. A mix of free and paid content, the service aims to let users read books on "any device". It remains to be seen if their take on the e-book experience can compete with Amazon's once the two are both available in Canada. Many music lovers will remember that even though puretracks launched in Canada first, they rapidly lost their marketshare once iTunes entered the market.
Meanwhile, there's no lack of innovation occurring in the hardware space. New e-book readers are coming out of the woodwork all the time. It's looking like the e-book is the next MP3… will you be jumping on the bandwagon, or will you wait to see where this goes?