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The dawn of e-books, no, really, for sure this time

The New York Times looks at a couple of new e-book platforms set to launch soon. One of them is Amazon’s Kindle, which “will be priced at $400 to $500 and will wirelessly connect to an e-book store on Amazon’s site.” And Google, which has been digitizing books behind the scenes for a while now, is reportedly set to start cashing in:

Also this fall, Google plans to start charging users for full online access to the digital copies of some books in its database, according to people with knowledge of its plans. Publishers will set the prices for their own books and share the revenue with Google. So far, Google has made only limited excerpts of copyrighted books available to its users.

Times reporter Brad Stone shows some skepticism, recapping the long history of the stalled e-book revolution and asking early on “whether consumers really want to replace a technology that has reliably served humankind for hundreds of years: the paper book.” But he also suggests that things could change with Amazon’s new gadget: “Several people who have seen the Kindle say this is where the device’s central innovation lies — in its ability to download books and periodicals, and browse the Web, without connecting to a computer.”

Quillblog can’t help but wonder, though, if that function is really the missing piece of the puzzle for consumers. After all, the iPod has taken the world by storm despite the fact that it requires users to manage its contents via their home computers (at least, it did until this week, when Apple released a new wireless-friendly model).