No doubt that like me, many of you are getting or giving an eBook reader of some kind for this holiday season. It seems to be a perfect convergence of technology, price point, services and availability, and consumer demand. Initially I was not very interested in eBook readers because I saw them less about the experience, and more about creating a platform for companies to sell content through (a la iTunes). Coming from that perspective, I was impressed to discover the analog conventions present in the digital framework of eBooks. In particular, the Barnes and Noble Nook (in particular) allows me to do three things that surprised me:
- Lending program: I can take materials that I have on my device and lend them to my friends. This is setup to mimic lending an actual resource, although with a few more restrictions (14 day limit, one time, etc). During this time, I am not allowed to read the material on my device (policy over technology). It would be great to see this feature become cross-compatible with other platforms. The Nook app is free on most mobile devices, so sharing should be straight forward.
- Integration with public library systems: A big reason I resisted an eReader is that I don’t often purchase my books. I am an active patron at the library (why not? – I pay taxes for something!). This was an analog system that allowed me access to resources free of charge. It turns out that the Old Colony Library Network of Massachusetts allows you to checking out a wide range of materials in digital formats. What is even better is I can do this online! There is a slight complexity with integrating with Adobe’s DRM solution for providing this functionality, but its mostly transparent to me.
- Previewing books at the Barnes and Noble: Another analog system is that I could go into a bookstore, and sit down and read a few chapters of the book to see if I liked it before I bought it. The eReaders allows this as well. I can go to any Barnes and Noble, connect to their wi-fi and browse for up to an hour a day for free. My eReader even gives me cafe coupons for food and drinks while I browse!
These digital solutions are meant to mirror our existing analog system. This is a smart move by the people driving the policies of these devices because its addressing the limitations people see with digital formats. These solutions aren’t perfect, but they are a breath of fresh air in the typical DRM rhetoric. What are your experiences with reading in a digital format? Has anyone coupled their device with desktop syncing software such as Calibre?