President, Digital Reading
San Diego, California
Steve Haber, 48, developed the Sony Reader, an electronic reading device. The Reader tripled its sales last holiday season; the third-generation Reader (complete with touch screen, and highlighting and notation features) debuted last November and is available at Best Buy, Target, and Wal-Mart.
"E-book readers will largely dominate the industry, and it could happen in less than 10 years. Every time I give a Reader to someone to test, I never get it back. It's just like when TiVo or digital cameras came out. At first, people didn't know they needed it. But once they have it, they can't live without it. When I headed Sony's U.S. digital-imaging division, people said, 'I don't like digital. I like the warmth of film.' And then we continued to improve the product. Now Americans buy 40 million digital cameras each year.
The book is really perfect for the same technology shift. It's paper, it's heavy, it's environmentally taxing. When we introduced our Reader, the biggest resistance I heard was, 'I like the smell of books, and I like the smell of paper. I can't go digital.' That was the confirmation for me that this change will happen. If the smell of paper is the biggest push back, then we're good to go."
A version of this article appeared in the May 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.