Friday, 23 October 2009

E-books…is it me or are they missing the point.

Ahhhh digital media, isn’t it wonderful? It allows us to access our favourite things easily and quickly without all that messy physical presence. E-books are a dream come true for trekkies with slim stylish and goddamned sexy e-readers now appearing on the market in force, with the Kindle hitting the UK and the resulting media around it surely this is the time for the product to REALLY take off?

No.

There are massive barriers to the uptake of e-readers in general that I believe will stop uptake by all but the most dedicated or space starved readers. Without these being adapted then the technology will go the way of the dinosaur or simply be adopted as a piracy device.

  1. Cost: In this case the cost of the readers themselves. Anyone wishing to avail themselves of Amazons Kindle for example is facing an outlay of $259 plus shipping plus tax. You also have to source a UK adaptor for your device. This is a minimum of £160 in current prices. Thats as opposed to the initial outlay of £0 to simply read a book (ok you need an education but our parents taxes paid for that one). Alternatives are available like the ereader from Sony but you still will have an outlay of £160 to £240 just for the hardware. Once you have it though there will be a cornucopia of books for you to download? Yes?
  2. E-Book availability: In the UK this is simply shocking. Amazon.co.uk simply have NONE. Amazon.com do list a large number of American titles, however there is a charge to download via the Kindle (the service may even be unavailable in the UK) and you have to rely on a computer to Kindle transfer. Waterstones in the UK do list some e-books but the selection is woeful and you get the full impression of the impact of the….
  3. Price: Hardback c£18 Paperback c£6 would you expect a product with even less of a physical presence to be cheaper, after all that why paperbacks are cheaper then hardbacks, its the rule of Pulp Fiction. An example- Michael Dobbs: The edge of Madness. Hardback: £17.99, Paperback: £7.99 and e-book: £6.38 in my opinion for a virtual product this is FAR too much. I’d rather have a paper copy please. Of course there is also the local library at a massive £0. So what else is different?
  4. DRM: A dirty word now in Music sales (and rightfully so) DRM or Digital Rights Management means that the item is owned by you. This is non transferable. Read it? I’m afraid the charity shop cant have it and you cant even lend it to a “mate”. You are essentially getting a locked book that is only openable by you. This is bizarre in the extreme with the excellent book swapping sites such as Bookmooch allowing people worldwide to swap books for the price of postage. Why is it considered so bad to share when we have finished with things?
  5. Feel: however hard they try nothing has the feel of a well loved book. Its texture, its weight and its honest to goodness presence. The character Giles summed this up when referring to computers vs books in “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. “They don't smell”

I’m not against e-books in any way but with the current model I cannot see how they can ever succeed. Perhaps with a rental system or massive reduced prices (for both hardware and products) there may be a chance but for now it really is still heavily in the realm of gimmick.

Paul Out… and leafing through his dog-eared hardback copy of IT!

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