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Best of the decade: Ebooks

The biggest development in the book world this decade was undoubtedly the development of ebooks. (Even if Dave refuses to acknowledge it.) So here are a few highlights of the Ebook Aughts.

It all began with the text. Before ereaders such as the Kindle or Nook were even imagined, Web sites like Project Gutenberg brought thousands of books to people, at no cost, and suddenly ebooks were everywhere. With the growth of the Internet, and its ever-increading availability to the public, readers everywhere took advantage of thousands of free books at their fingertips.

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And after that development, portable devices to read those ebooks on weren't far behind.

1. While Sony's e-readers came first, Amazon's Kindle was the first super successful e-reader developed. Whether it was the marketing campaign, the built-in customer base or simply the product itself, Amazon made it big with the Kindle, with Kindle 2 and Kindle DX following soon after.

2. Of course, there was quite a bit of resistance to e-books -- both by the industry and readers. So to really legitimize the format, Amazon brought in Stephen King, who wrote an exclusive mystery for the Kindle. (And at $1, "UR" is pretty hard to say no.)

3. So what happens if you didn't want to commit to an e-reader, but love other gadgets such as your iPhone or iPod Touch? Then you can get yourself an e-book application! Ereader, Kindle, Stanza and Barnes & Noble all have great applications available for your device, many with free ebooks included in the download.

4. In July, Sony and Google officially announced a partnership that changed the momentum of the ereader war. The Sony ebook store gives readers access to more than 1 million public domain books, and gives the Sony ereaders a huge leg up on the competition. In other words, wowza.

5. But just to mix it up, Barnes & Noble got into the act this year with their own e-reader, the Nook. The double-screened device includes a touchscreen color menu to browse through your library, with free wi-fi at all B&N stores and memory expansion, to hold even more books.

Cheaper devices and books, as well as better features, seem to be the norm. With the fierce competition, the future of ebooks -- and readers -- is looking pretty good. And speaking of the future ...

6. Let's talk color e-ink displays. While larger e-reader screens and more detailed illustrations have made e-readers ever more beautiful to read, the future is in color e-ink. Philips has developed a relatively cheap, lightweight, energy-efficient electronic skin.

Next decade: Literary holodecks. Somebody, make it happen.

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