High-tech devices are the new big thing, but will they last?

Publish a book on paper, says a sheepish Beth Collins, and "I'm hesitant to read it."

But send it through the ether to her feather-light Kindle 2, Amazon’s whiz-bang electronic reading machine, and she's eager to get lost in its pages — virtual though they may be.

"The Kindle is more portable. It's more readable," said Collins, a 56-year-old high school administrator from Kansas City.

If enough people buy a Kindle or Sony's rival device or a yet-to-debut electronic newspaper from Plastic Logic, the world of publishing could change forever — from how the written word is sold to how easy it would be to distribute your novel. It even would alter the meaning of publishing.

But the "ifs" are huge. Even in the Digital Age, building a great gadget doesn’t guarantee consumers will come.

Will people, for instance, fork out for Blu-ray video systems or decide that their standard DVDs are sharp enough? Could next year's Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car wallop Big Oil, or will it collect dust at dealerships if gas prices stay low? Will the Google-based Android phone finally connect the search engine to your pocket, or has Apple's iPhone already cemented its place as the hippest of hip candy?

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