Meanwhile, the latest version of Amazon's Kindle proved so wildly popular that it sold out with hours of being introduced -- a full month before it was even scheduled to ship -- while Amazon announced that for the first time, the number of e-books sold was greater than the number of hardcover books sold. Media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. not only acquired an e-reader manufacturer (Skiff) but declared its intention to publish an all-electronic newspaper that would compete directly with The New York Times and USA Today.
And there's more, much more. For instance, Stieg Larsson's Swedish thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo became the first e-book to sell more than a million downloads. E Ink Corp., the company that manufactures most of the monochrome displays used in e-readers, projects that it will manufacture over 10 million screens this year alone. School boards and textbook publishers everywhere are feverishly planning for the imminent retirement and replacement of high-priced physical textbooks; tomorrow's students will simply have all the books they need for the next semester transmitted directly to their e-readers.
And practically every day, Publishers Weekly, Publishers Lunch, Editor & Publisher and other online industry trade magazines carry multiple news stories about e-books, e-readers, and all the problems and promises the publishing industry is experiencing as it rapidly transitions from paper and ink to all-digital.
Although they may incorporate a variety of functions, e-readers are designed primarily for a single purpose: reading. Many e-readers are directly associated with one of the major e-bookstores like Amazon or Borders, facilitating simple, one-click purchases and downloads from among hundreds of thousands of books, newspapers and magazines. There is also a vast reservoir (1.5 million-plus) of free public-domain works (primarily books published before 1923 whose American copyrights have expired) available from a variety of sources.