Borders finds e-book too much of an odyssey

Borders UK is giving up on its first attempt to persuade Britons to buy electronic books after less than a year, because customers have baulked at the high price. The 51-store bookseller plans to sell a cheaper e-book reader in its stores after sales of the iLiad, which costs £399, failed to take off following a high-profile launch in May last year.

A Borders UK spokeswoman said: "We are going to replace it with another e-reader which should be announced in the next few weeks."

The retailer's decision to axe the iLiad will reignite the debate about whether e-books are a passing fad with no mass market appeal, or whether consumers are waiting for prices to come down and more e-books to become available for download on the internet.

Borders UK conceded that one problem was that customers viewed the price of the iLiad as "not sustainable", given that Waterstone's had been selling Sony's rival e-book device, the Reader, for £199 since last September.

The iLiad, which is roughly the same size as a sheet of A5 paper, was sold with 50 classic books, including Hamlet, pre-programmed. By contrast, Waterstone's sells the Reader with 100 classic titles on a CD, as well as 14 pre-loaded excerpts from new and recent books. Another problem is that iLiad users cannot currently download e-books from Borders UK's website.

A Borders UK spokeswoman said the market had moved on since last May, as more publishers produce e-books and in a consistent format.

Waterstone's is far more bullish about the Reader. A spokesman said that between September and 3 January it had sold 30,000 Readers, and that more than 100,000 e-books have been downloaded from its website.

WH Smith sells the Sony Reader in its stores and online, but it only sells the iLiad and the Cybook online.

Amazon plans to launch its Kindle e-book device internationally, following the launch of the device in the US in 2007. Kindle users can download e-books wirelessly to their devices and subscribe to blogs and newspapers.

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