Friday, July 17, 2009

Some great input on the eBook market

Jack Shafer over at Slate.com on Wednesday published a story about illegal eBooks and sample of the publishing industry responses and his opinions on both eBooks and the various devices required to read them. The article had a lot of interesting additions to the general eBook debate – once again, far more eloquent than any of my own burbling on the subject, so I thought I’d add (again) my own two cents.

One starting point, about the eReader devices currently available. Shafer doesn’t like them at all:

“all the electronic reading gadgets on the market are subpar, if you ask me, making the reading of books, newspapers, magazines, and even cereal boxes painful. The resolution is poor. The fonts are crap. The navigation is chunky”

He also characterises your average eReader as “a heap of garbage”. Personally, I think he’s being a tad harsh. He’s completely spot on about the “chunky” navigation and the poor resolution – though, on 07042009009the last point, I find that most of the cover artwork is usually fine (see photo – not many eBooks actually have ‘covers’, though, which is disappointing).

I only have the Sony Reader to comment on, so I’m not sure how it is for the Kindle or Iliad. The text font isn’t great, and it can sometimes look out of focus on the smaller font size settings, but it’s still readable. The page-refresh rate depends on what you’re reading: pages with images change slower, and the Sony format is marginally quicker than a PDF/Adobe eBook (as well as smaller in file size).

Anyway, back to the main point about the article – that of the possibility of “napsterizing” the book industry: “Only a student or a deadbeat with a lot of time on his hands is going to want to search the Web and scour the torrents” for free versions of eBooks. This is a fair concern, as I think the same about pirated eBooks as I do pirated MP3s – not good for the people who make/write/perform them, so damages their ability and desire to produce the stuff in the first place. Shafer has a point, though about the ease of getting pirated eBooks: “It’s as tedious as fishing!”

[Please note – I only did a Google search, I didn’t download anything – and couldn’t have if I wanted to, because the University network blocks all torrent sites, etc.]

Shafer’s arguments against raising the prices of eBooks are spot on, and I really hope publishers take note – if prices start going up, they’ll turn potential buyers off (especially if/when hard-copies are cheaper!!).

One of the best thing about the article, however, is easily missed: it’s a link to the PlasticLogic eReader site that will hopefully be released soon, which Shafer says makes “electronic reading painless”. All I can say is, like Shafer, I am very taken by this device, even if it doesn’t look as nice as the Kindle or Sony Reader (though it’s still not bad looking):

image(It would be nice if the borders weren’t so wide, and if it wasn’t white – damn the iPod and Apple for making manufacturers think electronics should all be white!!)

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