E-readers take over Hollywood

The Hollywood assistant’s burden might be getting lighter.

As more and more agents and executives opt to read screenplays on e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle, the 20-pound messenger bag is going the way of the R-rated studio thriller. And assistants are spending less time in front of the copy machine.

The latest version of Kindle, launched in May 2009, features a 9.7-inch display, built-in PDF reader and storage for up to 3,500 books or screenplays. Amazon also insists it has eliminated the eyestrain and glare associated with first-generation e-readers because the Kindle DX’s screen works utilizing real ink and doesn’t use a backlight. The sleek gadget isn’t cheap — retailing for $489. Still, the paper savings for an agency or studio can be significant, never mind the savings in pricey visits to the chiropractor.

One rep at a boutique agency says he and his brethren typically lugged home a dozen 120-page scripts a night. Now, the agent syncs all of his night reading to an e-reader, which weighs about the same as a monthly magazine.

WME estimates that more than half its agents use Kindles. In fact, before the William Morris-Endeavor merger, WMA gifted all of the agency’s assistants with the gadget as a holiday present in 2008. Similarly, CAA’s staff has largely jumped on the Kindle bandwagon.

Holly Bario, DreamWorks co-president of production, swears by her Kindle. “We only accept submissions now as PDFs,” she says. “No more paper for us.”

Still, the Kindle isn’t the only game in town. Barnes and Noble is launching the Nook. Sony has its own e-reader. Other rivals include the Skiff from Spring and Hearst, the Que from Plastic Logic, the Story from iRiver and the Alex from Spring Design.

About the only thing not competing with Kindle these days is traditional paper. Or as the scribe community is beginning to realize: A tree no longer has to die every time a studio asks for a rewrite.

Marc Graser contributed to this report

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