27 January 2008

e-book readers - do you, would you, will you?

Over on Petrona, Maxine has raised a story she's heard about Amazon's Kindle self-combusting. Seems it might be a marketing ploy.

In case you haven't caught up with it, Kindle is a wireless reading device marketed through Amazon, which sold out prior to actually being release, and is not available outside the US anyway. In case you think you could get around that, the documentation on the Amazon site clearly states
"Kindles cannot currently be sold or shipped to customers living outside of the U.S."
If you go to the website there's a 6 minute video about Kindle so you can see what it does.

Now e-book readers are not new. When I was lucky enough to visit Microsoft in 2000, they had an e-book reader they were promoting. It was a bit clunkier and heavier than the Kindle appears to be. What seems to have happened is that the Microsoft e-book reader became a bit of software rather than a bit of hardware.
The library of the newly opened Steel Canyon High School that we visited was going to have minimal real books and students would be able to download text books to an e-book reader.

So presumably what has happened is that e-book readers have been loaded onto pocket PCs, tablets etc. rather than a dedicated e-book reader. But I could be wrong.

So do you read e-books? How? Where?
As I said over on Maxine's blog, there are things I find attractive about an e-book reader, but I'd like mine also to have the option of being a "voice-book" so if my eyes were tired I could listen rather than read. So why don't I just listen on a CD player or mp3 player?
A couple reasons
* believe it or not, when you listed you are listening to someone else's interpretation of text
* for me , listening is usually slower than reading the text for myself.

So do you, would you, or will you?
Tell me about e-books and e-book readers


Kerrie said...

Freed From the Page
New York Times article
Freed From the Page, but a Book Nonetheless
The Kindle is expensive — $399 — but it sold out in just six hours after its debut on Nov. 19.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know; I don't see myself buying this or any other kind of electronic reader until such time as massive numbers of texts otherwise unavailable become available online -- and I have a need for such texts. If that happens, I'm likely to find using a portable reader preferable to reading at a computer or printing out massive piles of paper.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Anonymous said...

I did a round-up post linking to all the many posts at various blogs about Kindle here:

As well as only being available in the USA, I understand that one issue with it is that it is preloaded with certain texts and it is expensive to buy them -- more expensive than buying the traditional book. I think that (unfortunately) e-readers will gradually take over from traditional books, especially in light of the various digitalisation projects going on. But not yet, hopefully (ie not while I'm alive!). I just can't see myself actually wanting to read e-books rather than "proper" books.

Kerrie said...

In another venue someone raised the issue that an e-book reader makes all books look alike. i.e. the reader controls the format.

As far as "size" goes, the video certainly made the e-reader, only about the same size as a trade paperback but slimmer, seem an attractive proposition. However at no stage does he actually get it out of something - a bag or similar to tote it around in

I guess the issue of cost is a major one. If the books themselves don't cost less than the hard copy, then it is not going to succeed. What will create success is if the public can get books cheaper, and that seems unlikely to happen until the e-readers themselves come down in price, and they are not going to do that until supply problems are sorted out.

For me the other issue is what format the book is in - will it be available for other e-reader style download or will some authors strike deals where their book is available only in the "Amazon" format (i.e. for Kindle). Coming up with a standard technical format seems to me to be just as important as the reader itself. If the computer industry is anything to go by, and there are plenty of examples like floppy disks, CDs, DVDs, video tapes, then it is going to take some time to come up with common technical specifications.

Peter Rozovsky said...

"Coming up with a standard technical format seems to me to be just as important as the reader itself."

A standard format is the only issue. Until the advent of such a format, made available by multiple and competing manufacturers, anyone who buys any electronic reader and regards it as anything but a toy is a tool of whatever corporation makes the machine.

If the format is proprietary, the distributor will rip off the public the way American cable television companies do.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Kerrie said...

I agree with you here Peter. Even then a book could still be published in a number of formats including an audio one. I guess even then there is the question of whether a book is read by a human (i.e. as in a performance) or whether it is auto-read as in where a pdf file can be read by a voice reader - a bit like when your gps navigator "talks" to you, or when you pay a bill by phone and the automated thingy at the other end of the line reads numbers back to you.

Will the one publisher deal with all formats or will the author or his/her agent have to hawk the book around to specialist "publishers"?

Kerrie said...

Librarian says she's been told by Amazon that Kindles are not for lending

Marg said...

It will be a long time before I am ready to buy an ebook reader. Dymocks are advertising a version on their site, but it is $700-800 - Prices need to come down a lot!

Having said that, many of my blogging friends have e-book readers and love them, most particularly if they are like me and have long commutes. Instead of carrying two and sometimes three books around in their bag, they just carry one reader loaded up with loads and loads of books.

Kerrie said...

That last thought is interesting isn't it Marg. I do quite a bit of travelling. When we went on a holiday last year I took 10 books to last me the 2 weeks. Plus some extras for my friend Sally in Darwin.
On the other hand I save myself a lot of money by borrowing copiously from my local library network.
I do a lot of plane travel too. But you probably can't fire your e-book reader up until the seatbelts light goes out (like your laptop) and that would be about 40 mins of missed reading time on each flight.

Marg said...

I have three hours commuting time a day, and it definitely sounds like an advantage to me!

For those 40 mins you could always have one real book in your carry on luggage!


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