Sony says sales of ebooks will overtake print books within the next five years.
Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading business division, said: “Within five years there will be more digital content sold than physical content. Three years ago, I said within ten years but I realised that was wrong – it’s within five.”
He said the same patterns that Sony had seen in the digitisation of music and photography were now being repeated in the books market.
Sony announced today that it will sponsor a new category in this year’s Dylan Thomas Prize – the Sony Reader Award for Unpublished Writers. The prize, to be awarded in December, will go to the best book by an unpublished novelist under 30 years old.
Omar Gurnah, Reader category marketing manager for Sony, said: “Being involved in the Dylan Thomas Prize this year is an ideal partnership for Reader. We wanted to take the Dylan Thomas Prize’s ethos of working with young authors a step further by creating a new category to offer Britain’s unpublished writers a unique platform on which to showcase their novel-writing talents.”
Sony believes that the ebook market has now passed the point of no return. Haber said: “I have multiple meetings with publishers and tell them paradigm shifts happen. You can say fortunately or unfortunately you haven’t had a paradigm shift in, what, hundreds of years.”
He added: “We in the consumer electronics area have a paradigm shift every year or two.”
The Sony Reader range consists of two models in Europe – the Sony Reader Touch and the Sony Reader Pocket. In the US there is a third model – the Sony Reader Daily Edition, which is larger and offers wireless connectivity.
While Sony sees its devices as “immersive” readers, Haber says there is room for multi-function devices too, such as Apple’s iPad, which offers a range of ebook-reading apps. Recent research for Sony in the US by Marketing and Research Resources found that 11 per cent of iPad owners bought the device primarily for reading.
Haber said: “Now more and more devices are enabling digital reading, which is to be expected. It’s just like digital imaging, where you can take pictures with a cellphone – and many people take pictures with cellphones – but if they want the best possible picture they’ll use a point-and-shoot camera or a digital SLR.”
Haber believes people will apply a similarly flexible approach to reading: “You have your multifunction devices – like a tablet – that are available for reading and then you’ll have devices that are immersive. People will choose different devices for different experiences.”