There is no doubt, digital books are here to stay. The original Kindle, which started shipping in November 2007, was a wake up call to the publishing world. Amazon's innovative product emulated real paper using 4 shades of grey, and unlike a computer or cell phone display, the "e-paper" does not emit light so it won't strain your eyes.

What the iPod did for CD's, the Kindle may well do for books -- that is, destroy them. The era of the paper book may largely be over.

As you can imagine, this is good news for the environment. Digital readers like the Kindle and the Sony Reader use very little power, and could theoretically replace the estimated 30 million trees which are cut down every year in the US for the publishing industry. Though US forests are typically well-managed, significant carbon dioxide emissions are associated with the harvesting, shipping and processing of trees to make paper. 

But there are complaints. Some say Amazon is being too controlling by not allowing people (like the original Kindle) to swap in their own memory cards or replace the battery. Others have more serious concerns...

The Kindle forces users to buy through Amazon, essentially eliminating the need for smaller booksellers or even Barnes & Noble for that matter. Even iTunes will allow you to pull in media purchased form other sources. But Amazon, it seems, wants to own the market in its entirety.

Though it lacks the slickness of the Kindle 2, Sony has taken a much more open approach to the issue of digital books. The Sony Reader allows you to download books from a variety of sources. This gives smaller book retailers the opportunity to create their own select stores and publish special interest books.

Nevertheless, it will be hard for Sony to steal Kindle 2's thunder, with its slick design and great features, including:

  10 oz, lighter & thinner

  16 shades of grey, ultra-crisp

  2G storage holding 1500 titles

  Wireless - 60 second downloads

  230,000 titles to choose

  $10 per bestsellers

  Subscribe to newspapers

  Wifi Wikipedia access, 1000 blogs

  Digital text-to-speech audio

  Read word docs

At $359, it is still at the luxury price point, but it is only a matter of time before prices come down, forcing many book retailers to face a serious downturn in business. One of those examples, where an eco-gadget, while great for the environment, will not be creating any green jobs in the near future.

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