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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Reading electrodes

Okay, an interesting couple of things happened this week. As many of you know, I LOVE, absolutely LOVE eBooks. If I could, every book I purchased would be an eBook. Now don't get me wrong -- I'm not talking about sitting in front of a desktop computer with a 24-inch display, turning my head from side to side as I scan the page. No, eBooks and desktops don't mix. And I think most people who don't like eBooks, haven't really given them a fair shake. I read eBooks on PDAs, tablet PCs, and smart phones. And they rock. Here's why:

  1. Go anywhere. Whether standing in line at the bank or on the side of a mountain, you're reading material is easily accessible and manageable.
  2. No more lost places because you lost your book mark -- turn it on and it returns you to where you last left off.
  3. Built-in backlight won't bug your bed mate and trumps traditional booklights.
  4. Going on vacation and don't know what reading material to take? Take it all in on e light device.
  5. When that new book comes out that you're dying to get your hands on, log on, type in your credit card number, download, and in minutes you're in book lover paradise.
  6. Reduce the number of bookshelves in your home without reducing the number of books in your collection.
  7. Books can remain in print...no need to scour used bookstones and online sellers to locate that 6-month old horror novel you're dying to read today.
  8. Change the font size (and type, if you want), to make it readable without using your reading glasses.

Okay, that's just some of the reasons I think eBooks rock, and they are are future. When you think about it from an economic viewpoint, publishers and writers can potentially make a lot more money off the sale of electrodes rather than ecologically irresponsible paperbound books, that still rely on a wasteful (and shameful) policy of stripping unsold paperbacks, destroying the books, and returning the covers for credit.

kindle But eBooks, despite many valiant attempts, have always failed. But that may be about to change. Enter the Kindle Reader from Amazon...their new eBook reader, and their vast initial selection of books, just may be the salvo that launches us into the future. In addition to a rather sexy looking device with amazingly well thought-out feature set, they've managed to convince publishers that eBooks shouldn't cost as much (or more!) than their hardback counterparts. By pricing most hardcover eBooks at $10 or less, they've taken away one of the most commonly heard complaints: eBooks cost too much.

That said, I'm disappointed that books created for their Kindle Reader appear to be unavailable for reading on other devices such as laptops, PDAs, smart phones, etc. That's a big mistake, but they've done so much right here, I think the future of eBooks suddenly looks bright again. I for one applaud them!

The second thing that happened this week, though related, isn't as pleasant. I've been commenting to folks that I've noticed a drop in the number of books being carried in grocery stores of late. I'm one of those people who CAN'T walk out of a grocery store without having first scanned the book rack. On more than one occassion, I've found overlooked gems, and it's a great touch-stone for what's trendy/hot at the moment. Anyway, one of my local grocery stores moved their book rack a couple of months back...to the absolute worst spot in the store...in front, where you see them AFTER you've completed your purchase and are walking out. I thought, man, now that's gotta be a death knell....so yesterday, when I was in that store, paying for my purchase, I looked over at the books...except the books weren't there. I asked the clerk where they had been moved (actually, I asked three times, for some reason he had no idea what I was talking about at first), and he said, "Oh, they came and pulled them out. They weren't selling." Sigh. I told you it wasn't good. That said, I used to fear the demise of the bookstore as more and more of us go online to places like Amazon. But Amazon has gotten so damn good, that I now find myself visiting their site rather than going to the store. It's so organized, user friendly, and discoverable, and the selection so far outstrips the selection of traditional bookstores, well, you see where I'm headed. They just might not be missed. Heresy? Maybe. Reality? Definitely.

11 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Except for changing the font size I'm going to have to disgree with you on almost every other point. Books are far more handy than ebooks. Especially a smallish mass-market paperback. Fits in back pocket, always available, takes up space in bookshelves (which is a big big plus to me). I do like being able to change the font size, though.

Clifford said...

lol! Book lovers nearly ALWAYS disagree with me! But your example kind of proves my point...because in the same space that you placed your paperback, you could place hundreds of eBooks. Amazon's new reader holds 200 books internally. But if you add a memory card, the sky's the limit. Talk about space on your bookshelf (:

Amazon's new reader looks large in some pictures, but it's about the size of a small paperback...I saw a picture of a pencil and a side view of the device...it's not much thicker. The Sony eBook reader is about a quarter of an inch thick (I've been able to play with one...amazing little device) and actually a true marvel of technology. Ideally, it would be a touch screen device (so you could change pages by brushing your finger acroos the page), but that's just a fun feature...I bet, if I could get you to read one book on one of these devices, I could make a convert out of you...instantly! (:

Kate S said...

I was excited to see the Kindle, too, Cliff.

I still love my hard copy book collection, but I've started a rather large collection of ebooks as well - AND, I'm still only reading them on my desktop. I'm pretty sure if I had a handy reader, I'd be even more hooked.

Not likely to entirely give up the tactile comfort of a "real" book, but I'm definitely a fan of the "e" as well.

Of course, in my house, I still have cassettes alongside CD's and a large collection of VHS sitting next to my DVDs. And one of these days, I'll probably break down and buy an ipod. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

no, no, one of the best things about real books is that they fill up bookshelves. There are few things more pleasant than walking to a room and seeing dozesn of shelves bulging thickly with books, with spines that demand to be read, with covers that demand to be examined, with evocative titles on display for one's perusal. It is a serious weakness of ebooks that they don't take up space, my friend.

Thomas M. Sipos said...

You can also toss paper books and mags on the bathroom floor in front of the Throne. Or pile them on the cistern behind the Throne. Ready to read whenever you reign.

An ebook isn't something you can just toss on the floor. You have to set it gently, and preferably away from water.

I am concerned about shelf space. I've learned that some people are buying binders for DVDs. They're throwing away all their DVD cases, and putting their movies into these binders with pockets for the DVDs. Saves much space.

Clifford said...

Thomas!

On Amazon's site they show the device being dropped from three feet, on it's edge, on it's face, on it's back, on the corner...and no breakage!

Space is definitely an issue. I look around and realize I could store ALL of my books in the space of a single paperback. A small one at that, like Dracutwig.

Perfect for thrown reading...becaue that stack of magazines and books takes up less space than a roll of TP, and you don't have to run in and clean it up a bit before company comes. I have a feeling, once the first flush of excitement wanes, the price will drop. $400 is a lot, but if you're a big reader, it could pay for itself in a short amount of time.

The real problem with eBook adobption is that the youth today aren't reading. They've grown up reading computer screens and handheld devices. They are the optimal audience, but they represent a very small portion of the book reading public, unfortunately.

Thomas M. Sipos said...

Perhaps youth will read if the classics were translated into their language? If DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN were translated into text messaging and emoticons.

"I c u r travlng 2 Londn," sed Lu-c, "May I cum with u?"

Dracula :-) "No need, 4 I came 4 u."

Clifford said...

Thomas,

Too funny! I think you should translate the novel -- you would definitely find a publisher! Thanks for the early morning chuckle!

Sidney said...

I'm going to be doing a comic book adaptation of "From the Earth to the Moon" so I've got that in e-book form on my iPod now so I can peruse it if the mood strikes me, but I've also been carrying around a paperback of "The Mephisto Club."

I agree with Charles in some ways, but I also like having tons of books in my pocket at once.

On the way home from Portland, we worried that our book purchases would push our luggage over the weight limits but we made it.

Wouldn't have enjoyed browsing e-books as much at Powell's though.

Clifford said...

Sid,

I love you man! Someone who "gets it".

Okay, Powells is groovy, but you know as well as I do that the writing is on the wall. And the crazy thing about it is I'm getting used to it. I like change. Suffice it to say, I don't think the change will be complete until we reach quality/experience parity, but that's so close now I can taste it (and it's rather yummy, if you ask me). Congrats on the comic...yeah, I still love comics...digital or old school.

Clifford said...

Kate,

You read them on a PC? I bow down in your presence...I am so not worthy!

You know, if you're digging it on a desktop, then a handheld device (PDA, SmartPhone, or eBook Reader), will probably send you into orgasmic fits of book reading ecstasy! Wow, are you in for a treat!

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This is me and one of my two cats. His name is Cougar, and he’s an F1 Chausie. A chausie is a new breed of cat under development. Chausies are the result of a cross between a domestic cat (in Cougar’s case, a Bengal) and a jungle cat (Felis Chaus). Cougar’s mom is 8 pounds and his father is a 30-pound jungle cat. He’s about 16 pounds, super intelligent, spirited, and toilet trained. A writer without a cat (or two) is not to be trusted.