Computers, Personal, Software, Thoughts, Web

Year of the eBook Readers

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

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6 thoughts on “Year of the eBook Readers

  1. I’ve been enjoying my Kindle for Christmas since October. I have to say that I never imagined it would be so easy to use and well enjoyable to read from.

    I wonder if I can integrate to the local libraries here though.

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  2. I love a lot of the features that the nook offers. I wanted to get my dad an eBook reader for Christmas and looked really hard at the Nook and Kindle, but in the end settled on the iPad. With a kindle and nook app he can have the best of all worlds minus the e-ink screen, plus have access to his bank info and more. The biggest problem with the iPad in my opinion was the cost, but he has really enjoyed it so far.

    Chris really has liked the Kindle as well. I think at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter too much which device you have, but the fact that having a library of books at hand is a great asset. I have really started reading more since I started carrying books with me everyone on my phone and ereader.

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  3. One of the main reasons I settled on the Nook for Ben is because the Kindle as of right now does not do ePub which is the system the libraries use to lend books. And there are a few other features that I liked but the Kindle was my second choice.

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  4. Good job picking a reader because it supports ePub. A reader that doesn’t support ePub is not worth a single penny.

    I have really enjoyed reading eBooks on my iPad. As I am constantly saying, I have read more since I got my iPad than I did in the past 5 years. But there are a couple issues.

    My biggest complaint is the pricing. Take a look at Beginning iOS Games Development. The printed book costs $45.00 and the eBook costs $32.00. What the hell? It is understandable that the printed book would have a high cost since it isn’t cheap to print a book and get it to the customer. But the eBook? Once the transcript is turned into an eBook (ePub, PDF, whatever) there are negligible costs associated with it. You don’t have to re-create it for every person that buys a copy. You merely copy the bits to a new file.

    If you browse an eBook store, like iBooks or Amazon.com, you will quickly notice a problem with the pricing. Some books are outlandish prices and others are about the price of a typical paperback. The pricing is totally haphazard. I believe this is mostly publishers trying to force the print market pricing into the digital realm for larger margins. But I think there is also a little testing going on. No one knows what the general public will accept in terms of a pricing for a digital book. Personally, I have a hard time paying more than $10.00, and that is pushing it.

    What about loaning a book to a friend, or checking one out from a digital library? The current solutions are asinine. If I “loan” a digital book to a friend why can’t I still read it? I don’t care when it expires on his device. There is no technical reason why we can’t both read the book during that time.

    Looking through that Old Colony Library site I get the impression that they have done something even more ridiculous. It sounds like they will only allow a book to be checked-out by a limited number of people at a time. If the book has been checked-out by the maximum number of people, and you want to check it out, then you have to wait for one of the other check-outs to expire. That is just stupid.

    Overall, I don’t think it is quite the “Year of eBook Readers” just yet. I think 2011 is shaping up to be that, or maybe 2012. But 2010 has done a great job of setting the stage. For the first time people are truly interested, and the catalog of available books is exploding.

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