Data posted by Amazon, the largest retailing giant, showed that customers bought more electronic books than hard-copy books on Christmas. On the other hand, tech giants such as LG, Samsung or Acer announced they would introduce similar devices, the year 2010 being declared “the year of e-readers”.

But will these handhelds have the same success in Romania?

“It depends on two factors: the price, which should be similar to that of game consoles, namely less than 1,000 – 1,200 lei. But even so, costs are too high as far as I am concerned. For the same money you could buy a netbook. The second factor is the access to a long list of titles. It also depends on how many books will be e-reader compliant. For example business books are very expensive and I doubt publishers will sell the digital formats for their best-selling titles”, Dana Iorga, managing director of IT&S one of the ten largest vendors in the local market.

The manager said the company wasn’t in any talks for importing e-readers, as the market is still at infancy, but she doesn’t rule out the possibility of distributing such devices in the future.

Skin Romania has already had an attempt to sell the iRiver Story reader through eMag, Romania’s biggest online retailing company. The devices had a real success, considering that the first 200–items stock was sold out.

“The electronic readers were sold faster than expected. In mid January, the eMag stock was already low and orders kept coming. In February we will replenish eMag stock and we hope many will find e-readers as the right Valentine’s Day gift”, said Maria Botan, category sales manager with Skin.

As of February, Skin will sell 500 e-readers, and in the first two weeks, the handhelds will be available only through eMag stores.

“An e-reader is a less useful gadget than an iPod or a netbook, I think it should have more options. But on the other hand, it seems like a perfect gift”, said Iorga, adding that e-readers retailing should be down to the online stores rather than classic tech retailers such as Altex, Domo or Flamingo.

For the time being, these devices are available for purchase only from Amazon (Kindle) website and eMag.

“Romanians were ready for this product before we imported it. A few thousand e-readers were already in the Romanian market in December (Kindle or Sony), bought from US. If e-readers frenzy had started in 2008, iRiver Story would have been sold in tens of thousand copies. But given the current economic conditions, the sales won’t be that high. The product is successful and will enjoy a growing success as soon as the product gains awareness", said Maria Botan.