E-Books Now Easy On The Eyes, But Still Not This Year's Hot Gift

from the maybe-next-year dept

Reviews of the latest Sony e-book reader are out, and the device doesn't sound all that bad. Many of the issues that have plagued past versions, like readability, are getting solved. So now that these problems are out of the way, this year the much-hyped technology will finally take off, right? Actually, if anything, it'll probably be the opposite: the failure of this e-book reader to take off will demonstrate that many of the past issues, like screen resolution and battery life, were never really the problem. It's still unlikely that many consumers will plunk down $350 for a device with limited functionality, that doesn't solve any pressing problem. And before anyone compares them to MP3 players, remember that with MP3 players, one can easily rip their CD library to it. Good luck doing that with your books. Already have a copy of the Da Vinci Code? There's probably a DRM'd electronic version of it that the publisher would be happy to sell you again. Eventually, of course, there will be changes made to the book as we know it, but the fairly uninspired e-book won't likely be the successor to the current version.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 27th, 2006 @ 5:20pm

    The problem with e-books...

    ...is that paperbacks are the killer app.

     

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  2.  
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    Michael Long, Nov 27th, 2006 @ 6:21pm

    Flicker

    I tried to read one for about a half-hour at a local Borders, and wasn't impressed. With no backlight and relatively low contrast you need a lot of light to read one.

    My biggest complaint, however, lay with the "flicker" that happens every time you go to a new page. It's like it has to turn everything black before it can turn it white before it can display the text, and it gets rather annoying after a while. The device aside, there's also the Sony-only store where you get the opportunity to buy content for it... at full hardback prices.

    Personally, I'd love a device I could throw into a pocket or backback, that would also contain most of my entire library. But I'm not sure a single purpose device fits the bill.

    Perhaps we can pursuade Apple that, when they release their "full-size" video iPod to also open up the iBookstore, with $4.99 first releases....

     

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  3.  
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    Howard Lee Harkness, Nov 27th, 2006 @ 6:39pm

    Pressing problem

    "It's still unlikely that many consumers will plunk down $350 for a device with limited functionality, that doesn't solve any pressing problem."

    If it actually solved my problem(s), I'd gladly pay $350 for it. Even though it has limited functionality, if I could replace all of my printed books -- and use it at my public library to check out books, then it would go a long way towards solving a "pressing problem", namely, the last time I moved, 50% of the weight of my household was books.

    I've already replaced about half of my violin sheet music collection (for which I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $7000 over a period of 45 years) with 3 CDs at a cost of $65. However, I still print out the part that I am currently using, so it's not a 100% solution. I still need an electronic reader that will fit on my music stand, and easily and quickly flip pages. Oh, and allow me to quickly enter bowing and other marks in a score...
    --
    Violin Lessons in Plano, TX

     

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  4.  
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    Wifezilla, Nov 27th, 2006 @ 8:38pm

    They just don't get it

    People who like to read and would love to have such a device are also not very likely to fall for overpriced gimmicks...them having brains and all.

    I would LOVE an ebook reader...for around the same price as an iPod shuffle...along with book prices that reflect the fact that you don't have to employ an entire team of graphic professionals (from pre-press through bindrey and shipping) to create an ebook.

    People who read usually aren't stupid, and it looks like banking on stupids is Sony's main business plan.

     

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  5.  
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    Angus, Nov 27th, 2006 @ 8:49pm

    Go for Baen.com

    Baen.com already offer many of their books for free, re-reading on a screen could let me carry more books with me on holiday with less space required.

    Also their e-book subscription starts to look really good with one of these.

     

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  6.  
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    Greg, Nov 27th, 2006 @ 9:31pm

    I actually bought one of those Sony e-readers when they first came out. I really like it.

    Granted, the fact that it's hard to find books without going through Sony is an issue, but I find myself using it more for RSS feeds than anything else. For that, it's great. I can take it to work and read Gizmodo or whatever during lulls, or sit on the couch and read while my roommates play games or watch TV or whatever. It's far, far, better than using my laptop and the WiFi for that. Not to mention planes or trains or whatever.

    The RSS support out of the box sucks, but the hacking community has really taken to this thing.

    I'm a bit of an edge case (too much money, and technically minded) all things considered, but the reader does exactly what I wanted it to do - replace paper books and read RSS feeds (even TechDirt) in a small, cordless, silent, long-battery-lived package. No more, no less. For me, it was worth it, but I can see this kind of item being a niche product basically forever, until the technology changes dramatically.

     

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  7.  
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    Bailey, Nov 27th, 2006 @ 10:17pm

    I like the reader but the part that disgusts me is Sonys attempt at an online book store where they proudly declare that their books are 25% cheaper then the hardbound version. Thats revolting.

    Books have a 40% markup and thats for a book where the cost of materials, publishing and storage take up close to half the price. They should be selling these ebooks at 20 - 25% of the cost of a real book, even then they would be making more money then they do now on a per book basis.

     

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  8.  
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    Dennis, Nov 27th, 2006 @ 10:24pm

    eBooks

    I keep coming across articles like this and wonder what the heck is going on. What about the Palm platform for eBooks?
    Yes, I know about the Palm OS supposedly not aging gracefully, but what it does do it does surprisingly well. I have been reading eBooks on Palm devices for over 8 years with great pleasure. Most books I have downloaded from either Fictionwise or Baen - and most WITHOUT ANY DRM! And also for reasonable prices including FREE. My current device is a Palm TX that has a 4 inch screen with 320X480 backlit resolution that will easily go for 7 hours of reading before a recharge is needed. Oh yeah it only weighs 5.2 oz, also has an English/Italian/French Dictionary, all my appointments, customer contacts, several different games and about 10 hours of digital music. When I'm reading it fits in one hand and I can easily "turn" pages with a tap of my thumb on the hand holding the device. (with no flickers or shadows) And It fits in my pocket. Oh yeah, I can also surf the web via an available WiFi connection, directly download eBooks into the Palm and even check my email if desired.
    Now, explain to me one more time why would I want this Sony thing?

     

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  9.  
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    Rich, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 5:49am

    Re: eBooks

    I agree w/Dennis 100%. I've been reading ebooks on my Palm TX for almost a year now. I only have a couple of minor complaints. Battery life could be better, and it is difficult to read in sunlight or at night w/all the lights off. I was eager to see the SONY but came away disappointed. Yes, the eInk was wonderful. But the flicker and delay turning pages is very distracting. Also the size is overly large and the buttons poorly placed. I want to be able to hold and operate a device in one hand. The SONY doesn't have search or a built in dictionary which is unforgivable. I use those features all the time.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 6:18am

    More for less? No thanks.

    e-books have been around for over a decade. I've been reading books on Psion and later Palm devices for ages.

    The problem is that the publishing industry seems to think that we will pay just as much, if not more, for a DRM-infested locked-down electronic version of a book. The average consumer is well aware that the publishing and distribution costs of a e-book are close to zero. When you add libraries into the equation, anything above about half PAPERBACK (not hardback) price simply won't cut it.

    I'm with Bailey - sell it for a few dollars a copy and watch the sales figures rocket.

    Or you can continue to insist on top-dollar and whine about how e-books are not taking off.

     

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  11.  
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    Wizard Prang, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 6:18am

    More for less? No thanks.

    e-books have been around for over a decade. I've been reading books on Psion and later Palm devices for ages.

    The problem is that the publishing industry seems to think that we will pay just as much, if not more, for a DRM-infested locked-down electronic version of a book. The average consumer is well aware that the publishing and distribution costs of a e-book are close to zero. When you add libraries into the equation, anything above about half PAPERBACK (not hardback) price simply won't cut it.

    I'm with Bailey - sell it for a few dollars a copy and watch the sales figures rocket.

    Or you can continue to insist on top-dollar and whine about how e-books are not taking off.

     

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  12.  
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    MLO, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 9:23am

    I Love The Smell Of Paper In the Morning

    ...which is why e-book readers will never work for me. There's something about holding a paper copy of a book that appeals to me and yes, part of it is the smell of paper.

    About the only time I'll resort to an electronic copy is when I'm travelling (which is rare) and when they are articles, manuals or compiled help files which I'll read using Repligo or iSilo on my Pocket PC. And even then I'll usually take one book to satisfy my tactile cravings.

    Why should I buy a separate e-book reader that will only add more weight and hassle to my travel?

    MLO

     

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  13.  
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    Dillenger69, Nov 28th, 2006 @ 9:48am

    Baen

    Baen is about the only company that's gotten eBooks right.
    They charge around $5 for titles and there is no DRM involved so you aren't tied to any brand of reading software/hardware.
    I'll happily pay $5 to $7 for an eBook to read on my palm or wherever I have the file.
    I won't pay the ugly sums that other places are charging for the titles I want to read. If I'm paying more than $10 I want no DRM and a hard copy to go with my eBook.

     

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  14.  
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    Great Ebook Directory, Aug 24th, 2008 @ 12:44pm

    I've seen some nice ebook readers, but I'm still not going to go out and buy one when I can just read them on my pc. It makes no sense to have something like this when there are laptops small enough to get comfortable with and enjoy a good ebook.

     

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