An eBook Introduction

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Welcome to a new series we are starting here at Gear Diary called “State of the eBook”. Every two weeks or so (more if the news warrants it) I’ll be bringing you the latest news in ebooks, publishing, and the general digitization of our reading lives.

To the surprise of no one (except maybe Borders), Barnes and Noble announced their ebook reader today. Like its competitors the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader Daily Edition, B&N’s device has wireless internet, this one through Verizon. Confused by the incredible number of choices out there? Techcrunch has helpfully put together a chart detailing everything from screen size, to wireless provider, to DRM and format options. Hopefully, the additional competition and wide release will help push prices down and sales up…

Though sales may not need much help. According to the Association of American Publishers (AAP, not to be confused with AARP), book sales in July rose 2%, and 1.9% year to date. Respectable for a “dying industry”, but the real story was buried in one sentence mid-press release: “E-books sales reached $16.2 million, reflecting a 213.5 percent increase for July, and a 173.9 percent year-to-date.” 173.9% YTD!!! Did all those new 3GS users run out and start downloading ebooks? (via Mobileread forums)

And this has publishers feeling a little nervous. They are looking into new ways to monetize their business, including “renting” books, selling individual chapters, and working with libraries to offer more ebook options. Would you rent a book if it were offered Netflix-style?

So that’s just a few blurbs that passed through the news in the last few days about ebooks. But I’d like this series to be a lot more than just a regurgitation of the news. eBooks are still a very divisive subject in some circles; it’s hard to let go of the feel of a paper book, that new book smell, and the hunt for a book in a bookstore are experiences that don’t replicate well in digital form.

I’d really love it if you (our readers) could share what you like/dislike about ebooks, whether there are certain books you WON’T read over eBook, your favorite ebook reader/format, etc. Gear Diary is about technology for everyone, and eBooks are just on the edge of becoming available in the true mainstream. So what do you love about that, and what’s holding you back?

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About the Author

Zek has been a gadget fiend for a long time, going back to their first PDA (a Palm M100). They quickly went from researching what PDA to buy to following tech news closely and keeping up with the latest and greatest stuff. They love writing about ebooks because they combine their two favorite activities; reading anything and everything, and talking about fun new tech toys. What could be better?

5 Comments on "An eBook Introduction"

  1. I have been reading stuff on electronic devices since using Vertical Reader on my HP LX devices nearly 20 years ago … and so I am very open to reading anything on any electronic device. I have good vision and no issue with reasing small fonts on PDA’s. I am back & forth between my Dell Axim and iPod Touch right now for my reading habits.

    I am thrilled at the downward trend in prices, and think that the $20+ cost of new books kept my eBook reading more marginal and classic-centric until recently.

    Next comes the cost of the reader. There was an article recently ( that showed how much mainstream folks wanted to pay for an eBook Reader: %50.

    Personally I think they’d pay more, but I think that $300 for essentially a dedicated book viewer is absurd … and I’m a gadget junkie!

  2. Carly-
    Great post! Great series!
    Really happy to see you introducing this. I’ve used ereaders since the very first Sony device and am thrilled to see all the action taking place in the area these days. Between Amazon, Sony, Barnes and Noble and whatever apple may have up their sleeve I think we are finally getting to critical mass and mainstream will truly embrace this as the future of reading.
    I got a Kindle DX a few days ago and am really impressed with it so far.
    Looking forward to the next installment.

  3. Love – portability. The ability to take them with me wherever I go (assuming a reader is on my PDA/Phone) and carry a bunch of them. I also really like the ability to search eBooks for technical materials.

    Hate – the price. While I don’t mind paying for books, it’s ridiculous that an eBook costs the same as or more than the equivalent paper book. There should be a significant price reduction for an eBook that doesn’t require all of the middle-men that paper books require. Considering that the books pretty much come from some electronic format to start with, there should be no overhead for printing, transporation, storage, and so on. Even worse is that often the eBook price gets tied to the hardback so when the paperback is available for $8, the eBook still sells for $20. That just doesn’t make sense.

    I’m also not really crazy about the various DRM and control mechanisms around them. I realize that Amazon was in their rights to pull the copy of 1984 that was sold, but they did so in such a drastic manner that it hurts the reputation for eBooks. What’s to stop them from doing it again just because they no longer sell a book? With other schemes, they’re tied to a credit card, which is great until I lose/forget that card number.

    Finally there’s the price of the reader hardware. I already have a PC, PDA, Phone, or similar so why can’t I just get the software for that instead of having to buy a new reader device? I don’t see the point in shelling out $200 for an eBook reader to load up heavily DRM-infested and somewhat overpriced eBooks. I’d rather put that $200 towards the paper books or find them used for even less when possible.

    As for renting – probably not unless there was a really, really big price break. I can just go to the local library for free at that point.

  4. I like reading on my Advantage, it’s more convenient than having paper books. But I’m a gadget freak and a geek so for me having 3-4 different readers (Mobipocket, EReader, MSReader, Adobe…) so that I can read different eBook formats is not such a problem. Similarly finding books online, transferring them to a device is OK, but far from user friendly experience, so it’s maybe OK for me, but certainly not something for the rest of my family.
    That’s why I envy you guys in the US, because Kindle is much more user/consumer friendly and if you combine that with restrictions on availability of certain books to other countries and you get a situation where consumer in US is in much better position than people in the rest of the world.
    So for me the problems for e-books are:
    – too many incompatible formats coupled with different DRM restrictions – combined with HW and SW that support only limited options and thus locking the consumer to one provider – less choice
    – prices way too high compared to paper editions – considering the cost of “producing” e-book is almost zero compared to “real” books
    – DRM itself, music is going DRM free and e-books have DRM systems that make buying e-books more like renting
    – US centric e-book market – pretty much all the new readers and stores are US only (that’s like 5% of total population) – I know that distribution and publishing deals combined with local laws are the issue, but in the global world and with digital distribution, only being able to buy and download stuff if you live in US even though there is no technical barriers is still sad – especially since you can buy the same books in paper form from the same shop (almost) everywhere.

  5. I have the Sony 505 and the size/weight is perfect for me. I have a worn rotator cuff in my right shoulder (too much racketball in my youth) and holding a paper book to read for an extended period of time causes pain in the shoulder. I have the Advantage and love it but the weight of it can be a problem for holding in the reading position. I appreciate being able to hold 20 plus books all at once on the ebook with no problem!

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