Why, then, do Amazon.com and Sony think they need to replace traditional books with electronic readers?
On Monday, Amazon unveiled the Kindle, a $399 handheld device that can download digital books, newspapers, and magazines from the Internet. Like the name suggests, Kindle is Amazon's way of burning down the traditional paperback book business.
Just last month, Sony launched an upgraded version of its Sony Reader.
Sony and Amazon apparently think the public finally is ready to trade its paperbacks in for more computer screens, even though various attempts to do this have largely failed for a decade.
The Wall Street Journal quoted an executive from Rosetta Books last week who estimated that e-book sales range between $15 million and $25 million annually. That would be a tiny portion of the $25 billion in revenues the publishing industry generated last year.
So what tea leaves are these companies reading to convince them that consumers are finally ready to go digital with their books? "