While tablets are shaping up to be the must-have items of 2011, the humble eReader looks to have been a winner in 2010 - and the decision of several book sellers to launch their own devices has proven a wise move.
Hot on the heels of Amazon's announcement that its own-brand Kindle eReader is the best-selling product in the retailer's history, US book seller Barnes & Nobel has similarly claimed that its own Nook eReader has proven the most popular item since the company launched its website 15 years ago.
The Nook, which is currently only available in the US, differs from most eReaders on the market by taking its design cues from the tablet world: a full-colour LCD display offers both a high-quality method for viewing both books and magazines, while the touch-screen interface makes it easier to browse through long lists than most button-based eReaders.
The Nook has proven popular with hackers and tinkerers, too: based on Google's Android mobile platform, the Nook can be modified to run third-party Android applications - including, funnily enough, Amazon's own Kindle for Android, allowing Nook users who don't mind kissing goodbye to their warranties full access to Amazon's large eBook library.
While eReaders are apparently proving extremely popular - and who wouldn't want to carry an entire library around in their pocket? - the books themselves are proving a harder sell. With many new release books costing the same - or, in some cases, significantly more - than their paper-based brethren, it remains to be seen if the eBook market can grow without someone having to take a serious look at the pricing structure.
Although the popularity of the hardware is doubtless a welcome additional source of income for the companies involved, eReaders do potentially bring to the book market an issue that the movie and music industries have been fighting for years: piracy. With the often expensive eBooks quickly cracked and uploaded to file sharing services, it's always tempting to download your next distraction from an illegitimate source - something that is pretty impractical with printed media.
As we've seen, however, there is a growing trend for new authors to release their books under 'free' licences such as the popular Creative Commons scheme, allowing readers to legitimately download electronic copies of their books for free - and with the sources of such free eBooks growing, eReaders are likely to prove just as popular throughout 2011 as they did over the year just gone.