2010: The Year of the E-Book

Amazon, Sony and Barnes & Noble could reap the benefits of e-book "mania" in 2010.
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SEATTLE (

TheStreet

--

Amazon

(AMZN) - Get Report

,

Sony

(SNE) - Get Report

, and

Barnes & Noble

(BKS) - Get Report

could reap the benefits of e-book "mania" in 2010, according to analyst firm

Gartner

.

E-books, such as Amazon's

Kindle

and the Sony Reader have been gaining momentum in recent months, although Gartner says that the technology's big boom will be next year.

"With the entry of new players, such as Barnes & Noble, into the e-reader market and an increase in models from Amazon and Sony, consumers began to have choices in single purpose e-reading devices in 2009," said Allen Weiner, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement. Robust growth is expected in the next year, according to Gartner, culminating in an e-book frenzy during the 2010 holiday season.

Analyst firm Forrester recently increased its 2009 projection for e-book sales from 2 million to 3 million, with 30% of the year's sales coming during the holiday season. Forrester attributed this to falling device prices, more content availability, better retail distribution and plenty of media buzz.

Gartner agrees that price will be crucial in e-books' future. "At the moment it appears that $199 will be the lowest price for fully-featured e-reading devices for the 2009 shopping season," it said, but the firm added that prices must drop closer to $99 to drive significant take up.

Moving forward, book applications on smartphones will also become important, potentially bringing in revenue for a slew of tech giants.

"Book applications for smartphones have the potential to become a bridge to other devices such as Tablet readers and netbooks," said Weiner. "

Apple

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, for example, could migrate the more than 500 book applications on the iTunes store to a

Tablet

device, and

Google

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, which recently announced a browser-based e-reader, could offer applications for Android-based devices of various form factors."

There has already been

speculation

that Apple's Tablet device could offer some form of e-book capabilities when it is launched next year, although the consumer tech giant is playing its cards

close to its chest

.

At this stage, however, it is e-books that are grabbing most of the attention.

Amazon, which recently enjoyed a massive third-quarter

sales

and

profit

hike, has been one of the stars of this earnings season and is

gearing up

for the 2009 holidays.

The Kindle has become the company's No.1 bestselling item by both unit sales and dollars -- not just in electronics but across all product categories on Amazon.com, according to the company's CEO Jeff Bezos.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York