한국의 국내 전자책 시장은 아직 본격적으로 개화하지 않았다. 그러나 애플 아이패드 같은 태블릿 컴퓨터의 등장으로 전자책 기기와 컨텐츠에 대한 수요가 폭발적으로 증가할 것이라는 전망이 우세하다.
올해 초 전자책 전용단말기들이 쏟아질 때만해도 시큰둥하던 대형 서점들은 이제 앞다투어 태블릿 제품에 장착할 모바일 애플리케이션을 개발하고 있다. 이러한 서점들간의 경쟁은 한국의 두 전자거대기업인 삼성과 엘지 간의 대리전 양상을 띠고 있다고 해도 틀리지는 않을 것 같다.
그 동안 삼성의 갤럭시 계열 스마트폰에 전자책관련 모바일애플리케이션을 탑재해온 교보문고는 곧 출시되는 삼성의 갤럭시 탭 태블릿 컴퓨터에도 자사의 제품을 탑재할 예정이다. 교보의 경쟁자인 영풍문고는 내년에 출시되는 엘지의 태블릿 컴퓨터에 전자책관련 모바일 애플리케이션을 탑재할 예정이다.
Bookstores caught up in tablet wars
The buzz generated by tablet computers, such as the Samsung Electronics Galaxy Tab, has traditional bookstores hoping for increased revenue from digital book content. / Korea Times
By Kim Tong-hyung
The electronic book explosion has been muted here, but optimists see tablet computers, like the Apple iPad, lighting a bigger torch. And traditional bookstores that napped during the debut of dedicated e-book readers are now rushing to develop e-book applications for mobile devices and have them installed in upcoming tablet devices.
This has them engaged in an unlikely proxy war driven by the rivalry between Korean technology giants Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics. Kyobo, the nation’s largest bookstore, currently has its e-book applications prepackaged in Samsung’s Galaxy series of smartphones and the partnership will extend to the upcoming Galaxy Tab tablet computers, which Samsung touts as a potential “iPad killer.’’
LG Electronics, which has been late to the tablet party, is expected to unveil its first touch-screen computer next year, and it remains to be seen whether it will establish partnerships with book retailers the way Samsung did.
There are speculations that YoungPoong, Kyobo’s rival book retailer, could be picked as the applications provider for the new tablet, but LG Electronics officials said nothing has been decided yet.
YoungPoong was one of the book retailers and publishing companies that jointly established the Korea Electronic Publishing Hub last year to add to the wealth of e-book content available and create an ecosystem of applications. Bandi and Luni’s, YoungPoong’s rival book chain, and major online retailers Yes 24 and Aladdin, also have stakes in the Korea Electronic Publishing Hub.
“The demand for e-books will likely be centered around tablets. The dearth of e-book content continues to be a problem and we have to diversify our content sources to add to the overall pool,’’ said a YoungPoong official.
It remains to be seen which device will end up changing reading habits more ― tablets, referring to the all-purpose touch-screen computers like the iPad, or dedicated digital readers for books and newspapers like the Amazon Kindle. At least for Koreans, however, the answer seems obvious as they race to leap on the tablet bandwagon.
It was just earlier this year when electronics makers and Internet companies like iriver, InterPark, and Book Cube competed to push dedicated e-book readers out of the gate. However, industry observers say they have since combined to sell less than 50,000 of their products.
And although Samsung is promoting its Galaxy Tab heavily, the debut of the tablet doubled as a death sentence to Papyrus, Samsung’s first e-book reader that was just released in February. The sales of Papyrus have been disappointing, with consumers here turned off by the device’s lavish price tag and the lack of a content ecosystem, and Samsung says it now prefers to concentrate on tablets instead.