This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.
book industry is trying to get a good read on its future.
These days, instead of turning paper pages,
many readers reach for handheld devices. These electronic readers not only
store books to show on a screen, they can also read them out loud.
This month, Amazon lowered the
price of its Kindle reader by sixty dollars to just under three hundred
dollars. The device can download books wirelessly from a store on Amazon's Web
site. Most new releases and bestsellers cost nine dollars and ninety-nine
cents. Newspapers, magazines and other services are available for a monthly
Buyers of e-books get a good
deal: Traditional hardcover books often cost around twenty-five dollars. But
what about book publishers and writers? Their concerns about profits are like
the ones voiced as the Internet began to change the music industry. Many
e-books are already selling for ninety-nine cents.
Books printed on paper are easily shared and resold by
anyone. But e-books can act more like computer software licensed only to the user
who buys them.
And some Kindle users got a shock last
week. They were surprised to find that copies of two books disappeared from
their devices. These were ninety-nine cent versions of George Orwell's
"1984" and "Animal Farm."
have had fun pointing out that "1984" is largely about censorship -- the
suppression of information in a society led by Big Brother. Amazon explained
that it did not have the rights to the books, so it erased them and returned
the people's money.
week, Barnes & Noble, the world's largest bookseller, launched what it
calls the world's largest e-bookstore. People can read the books on the Apple
iPhone and other handheld devices and personal computers. They can also
download over a half-million books available free from Google. The Internet
search company is putting books online that are no longer protected by
But last October, Google reached a one
hundred twenty-five million dollar legal settlement to also make parts of some
copyrighted books available. That deal with two groups of writers and
publishers has raised competition issues. The Justice Department is now
investigating. Also, the European Union plans hearings in September on how
European writers might be affected.
And that's the VOA Special
English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. Transcripts and podcasts of
our reports can be found at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.