Amazon's Kindle making headroads in electronic book sales

I've been intrigued by Amazon's Kindle, the electronic book reader, since its introduction last year. However, like many of you, I've wondered if the technology offered enough to offset the convenience and tactile pleasure of a print book, and whether Amazon could offer enough value to justify the price ($359). Apparently, then answer to both is increasingly, yes.

According to Josh Quittner in Time and the PR rep I spoke to at Amazon, a full 12% of all books sold by Amazon of books that Amazon offers in both Kindle and conventional print formats are sold as Kindle books, a total I find astonishing. What would account for such a quick shift in public buying habits?

The economics work for many. Most best-sellers in Kindle format cost $9.99, and can be uploaded immediately. Other books go for considerably less. Magazines are also available at around $2 an issue, and newspaper subscriptions for $10 a month, roughly. Since paper best-sellers normally sell for around $25, the Kindle would pay for itself after 24 bestseller purchases.

The quality issue seems to be less of a concern, too. Users uniformly say that the screen is as easy (or easier) to read than the printed page, and the device is very easy to control. Battery life is not an issue for most, either. Many point to the convenience of having an entire library at their disposal, especially when traveling.

I'm considering one for another reason. I look with dismay at the amount of paper I recycle each week, newspapers and magazines by the bushel. The Kindle would allow me to do my reading digitally. The main argument against it? I use the library as much as I can, rather than purchase books. I'd like to support my fellow writers, but don't have the disposable income to justify buying bestsellers.

Nonetheless, this is beginning to look like the breakthrough device that the industry has been expecting, especially if Amazon can make headroads in offering text books in this format. At least, no significant competitors have hit the market yet. If they could only drop the price to around $200, I think it would really take off.