e-Book Readers Everywhere — Who Cares?

27 Comments

It has been clear for quite some time that the e-book reader space has gotten pretty hot. There are companies making readers right and left, and I must have seen dozens of them while wondering around the CES. There were readers of all types, almost all of them e-Ink equipped, and if the sheer number of devices is any indicator then the mainstream consumer is going to flock to digital books in droves. Wanna bet that doesn’t happen?

We geeks love e-book readers. They are gadgets, after all, and we can’t get enough gadgets. Mainstream consumers are a different beast, however, and they are going to require something very specific to even have a chance to win them over. Content. Not just a big selection of content, but very specific content.

Mainstream consumers want best-sellers and other recent releases. They want any book they can pick up in one of the thousands of stores where they shop. They want any book they can pick up in a public library. They want to see a book, and buy it for their reader on the spot. Not go searching to see if it’s available for their particular reader, and definitely not to see if the format is compatible with it. They want to see a book, and buy it.

This is why the Kindle has been pretty successful; at least consumers can buy a book from Amazon (s amzn) simply, and have it work on the reader. Barnes & Noble (s bks) is banking on this too with the Nook. They both have a huge selection of digital books, and buying them is a simple process.

Once the book buying process gets less straightforward, the mainstream consumer will drop out. The first time they buy a book, only to find it won’t work on their particular reader, and it is game over. Frustration and reading books do not go hand in hand, it is a major failure for the consumer.

So we may be seeing gobs of readers getting released, but the reader is only one piece of the consumer experience. And not even the major piece, as there are paper books everywhere they can read. And make no mistake about it, they will continue reading those dead-tree versions if it is easier. I’m just sayin’.

27 Comments

Ray

I think the industry and maybe a few of the posters here need to wake up and do a few online searches. People aren’t going to wait for the industry to figure it out.

Already there are home brew sites devoted to building fairly sophisticated book scanners, while other sites coordinate teams of scanners, OCR converters, and proof readers.

The publishing industry only has a limited window of opportunity before an impatient public takes it out of their hands.

somename

Remember…anonymity = privacy = essential for a free society.

This is critically important in the context of e-readers.

somename

Governments that are not already totalitarian tend to devolve in that direction, and we live in an world already largely populated by totalitarian governments. Knowledge of one’s choice of reading can be used against one in ways that are often not anticipated, and suppression of opposition to totalitarianism, and even of mundane freedoms, aa well as general governmental abuse of individuals, can be facilitated by access to private information on individuals such as their reading materials.

In order for a free society to exist, privacy in citizens’ “papers” is essential to prevent government identification and abuse of citizens that leads to totalitarianism, including suppression of dissent and other opposition to illegitimate “leadership”. Anonymity of access to reading material is an absolutely essential means to accomplish this privacy in papers.

E-readers, unless they have a firm mechanism to establish privacy, meaning limited DRM, untraceable (usually cash) payments, and usually physical delivery in anonymous situations, will prove to be a mechanism of dictatorship.

The PRC’s Communist Party, for example, currently employs tens of thousands of people to broadly gather private information belonging to individuals and companies. It uses this information not only to directly steal intellectual property of commercial and national security interest, but to engage in blackmail of individuals to accomplish a variety of nefarious purposes.

Craig

I’ll get an e-Reader as soon as they’ll handle 8.5″x11″ PDF documents nicely, and I can take notes on the PDFs.

Jon M

I wanted to say that, I don’t care.

All of a sudden slates (“tablets”) and e-readers are the hot thing and the incredible outpouring of everyone saying or showing their “me too” product saturates the market and interest. In fact, it has made me more disinterested in those products no matter how “exciting” they seem to be. Kind of like how NetBooks and SmartBooks have become for me lately.

And the lets put Droid on everything …. bandwagon … I need a time out on that too.

Oliver

I had that same discussion with one of the manufacturers at. She was touting the 1 million Google books I could access and I kept asking her “and how many of those would I want to read?”

Oh — and slightly off topic — what was up with those Samsung ladies trying to stop people at their booth from taking pictures of their four readers? Not that they had any chance of preventing it, but what’s the point anyway? Don’t want pictures of something? Don’t show it!

gunderstorm

I see only the extremes being popular – “nobrainer” content loaders like the Kindle and geek-tastic wide-open workhorses like the eDGe might turn out to be.

If I had Android running in the background, I could have access to every PDF on my home PC wherever I am. But my Mom is just fine on her Kindle.

Robert

Does anyone really need more proof about what consumers want than: exhibit a) iTunes/iPod; and, exhibit b) Amazon/Kindle? Give people a good device with seamless content delivery and you will be successful. But the content and delivery system is more important than the device. Ideally the hardware should be invisible.

Greg Ward

I hope somebody (don’t care who) puts a rocket under the Publishers and restores access to popular books outside of the USA!

James Kendrick

Don’t even get me started on the global issue. I’ve spoken with publishers and authors, and each country requires a separate e-book agreement for every single book! It’s a recipe for disaster.

Oliver

@Jake — true, but I can buy a German hardcopy book from a German bookstore and take it back to the US. And vice versa. Will that work with eBooks?

Ben

James-

I’m a Subsidiary Rights Director for a publishing house in NY. The issue is not so much that each counry requires a separate agreement, but rather the originating publisher may or may not have aquired the ebook rights when a book was originally published, and if that publisher sold, say UK rights, or canadian rights to that book, the licensing publisher may or may not have aquired the ebook rights along the way. In many cases, the term of the contract may be the length of time the book stays in print, thus the contract may stay in force for a decade or more. It’s a huge and time-consuming undertaking, in companies that are more often-than-not, short-handed, to clear ebook rights for the multitude of “backlist” titles.

TateJ

James, I couldn’t agree more. My BeBook reader is a pretty neat little device, but loading books on it was a pain. Having to be at the comupter to load book on the device turned out to be a drag. Yes we geeks will do it, but there are not enough of us to sustain the market. Kindle and B&N have the right idea. Keep things simple and easy to use.

My wife bought me a Kindle and what a different Experience it is. I’ve read 25 or 30 books in the 2 months I have owned it and the whispernet syncing to the iphone is awesome. I’ll be using it for years to come. If the Kindle DX ever gets the capability to display Office Documents in addition to pdf’s, I’ll get one.

As for my BeBook, its going in the trash. It stopped working 13 months after I bought it. I tried everything to revive it and BeBook wants quite a few bucks to fix it.

Dill

dont worry everybody, Apple will save us from ourselves.

heres to the late Jan release of i-eReader Slate Tablet! it will be double the price of everything else, made from metal, & unusually heavy.

JohnnyA

It will be the most Beautiful eReader the world has ever seen. Oooops, I am so excited i almost wet myself. :-P

Bic

But do you really want to read a book for a lengthy time on an LCD screen. Tablets are just flat, keyboard-less netbooks and you can already read books on a netbooks with Kindle for PC. But I’d rather read a book with a light-weight e-Ink reader, both for my eyes’ sake and my battery’s.

robinson

Gosh, most of the world’s computer users read for hours on LCD screens!

The e-ink readers all suffer from that flash on turning the page– that’s far worse than any issue with an LCD screen.

With most of the readers on the i-devices (iPhone, iPod Touch), you can set custom color schemes that are wonderfully comfortable–and not have the darn screen FLASH!!

Jake

The way I see it, there are two things that will turn people off e-books: a lack of content and DRM. My other concern would be long term (measured in decades) compatibility.

Oliver

Exactly. My wife and I have been using Sony Readers for a long time (early adopter), and while we can share books (same account), she’s no longer able to pass books she’s done with to her friends and family.

tcv

I’m having more fun with my iPhone and the Kindle app than I am with my actual v1 Kindle. I still often wish for a larger back catalog. Recently I looked for the first MAN-KZIN WARS and couldn’t find it anywhere in ‘e’. I got the ‘p’.

Mind you, I say I couldn’t find it anywhere LEGALLY. I didn’t try torrent sites.

HongCho

I was thinking the same thing.

That’s why I think the e-Reader makers should partner with B&N or Amazon. Since Amazon doesn’t seem to be thinking about allowing 3rd party in, and since B&N seems to be open to a 3rd party device for their eBook storefront, they should go with B&N although we don’t know what B&N is asking for.

I really liked the Notion Ink’s combination of Tegra/Pixel Qi. However, no matter however cool it is, it won’t survive without an easy book purchase (and reading) experience.

Hong.

Barbie Bidness

Why deal with B&N or Amazon or Borders etc. They are just “middle men” taking a cut of the action.

Ebook Reader manufactures should DEAL DIRECTLY WITH THE PUBLISHERS and bypass the current book resellers. The quicker they learn that the resellers are the ENEMY (profit-wise) the better.

I would be making sweet deals with companies like McGraw Hill, Pearson, etc and the Consumer would be the winner with cheaper prices.

gunderstorm

It’s kinda hard to see Amazon as “the enemy” when we have them to thank for the eReader entering the mainstream in the first place.

HongCho

Do you really think that each H/W manufacturers having multiple incompatible eBook stores are going to be better? Do you think that dealing with each publisher individually would be cheaper? How could that be beneficial to the customers or help to broader the eBook market?

One such example, I can see is Sony, who has been in the eReader business longer than Kindle. Why is it not doing well (well relatively speaking)?

If Borders can come up with a 3rd party accessible eBook market, that would be great. Then we would have 3 competing eBook stores, whose competitive environment should be beneficial to the end-user customers and the eReader manufacturers.

However, each H/W manufacturer doing their own storefront? I don’t think so.

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