Kids in third-world countries may get an eBook reader before you do!

Check out the latest version of the One Laptop Per Child project:

There are great pictures and a short video. Of note is that this “laptop” is about the size of a paperback book and opens to a two-page spread. Presto: a great device for reading books.

promo shot from OLPC

There is no separate keyboard; instead it uses programmable touch-screen technology (like the Apple iPhone). That this device might be manufactured for under $100 is promising — someday those of us no longer defined as a “child” might be using these.

promo shot 2 from OLPC

Missing at this point is a smart cell phone, and there is no mention of audio capability, but those will surely be added for commercial models. Screen resolution will also need to be improved.

Once these devices are in circulation, we’ll see a huge shift in book publishing. Prices for books in digital format will drop to the $1.99 to $4.99 range as publishers scramble to grab market share. [Even at these much-lower retail prices, publishers’ margins will actually improve without the printing, shipping, distribution and returns costs.] Printed books will rapidly decrease in popularity, necessitating an increase in retail price when economies of scale for the printed edition decrease. And we’ll see bricks-and-mortar bookstores going under, as consumers access new content over the Internet only.

As an author, you can be optimistic. The playing field is being leveled: your story will be able to compete shoulder-to-shoulder with all the “blockbuster bestsellers” being released by Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and others. What you need to focus on is QUALITY. Write the very best book you can, then hire a great editor to make it even better.

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