Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The E-reader Tsunami Is Coming

By Joe Moore

We’ve had a few previous discussions about e-books and the electronic devices on which you can read them. Why another post on the subject? Because unlike in the past, things are about to get really serious. So if you’re thinking about investing in a reader such as the Amazon Kindle 2, you might want to hold off for a short while because there’s a whole new generation of  readers about to hit the shelves.

A number of companies such as Asus, Plastic Logic, and the sony-readerBritish company Interead are ready to launch new devices that will get you reading digitized books and newspapers at prices that are finally becoming reasonable, some starting as low as $165. Sony is already shipping their e-reader starting at $199 (pictured). On October 20, Barnes & Noble introduced their e-reader called the Nook ($259).

Major publishers are jumping into the e-book pool on sites like SCRIBD while thousands of books are being converted into Kindle format and made available on Amazon every day. If nothing else, the term “out of print” will soon disappear from our vocabulary.

There is a downside to the plethora of new e-readers: format compatibility. An example is the books and periodical subscriptions your purchase through Amazon may not be readable on a different brand other than Kindle.

kindle2 Also, keep an eye on Google in all this. They want to scan millions of out-of-print books and make them available through the Google Book Search for e-book readers. Amazon is fighting this because Google’s deal makes it hard for other e-book sellers (such as Amazon) to scan and distribute these same books. I bet this battle gets dirty before the dust settles.

But the tsunami of new e-readers should mean that we’ll see the end of Amazon’s only-game-in-town Kindle dominance as the prices go down and the features go up. Remember the Apple iPhone a few years ago and what happened next?

Do you have an e-book reader yet? Or are you resisting even the thought that this is the future?

11 comments:

  1. I'm waiting (for money). I'm waiting for color so magazines will work. I'm waiting for Apple to come out with something, so there might be a multi-purpose device. But I'm not waiting with the notion I won't enter, I'm just waiting for it to be appropriate for me.

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  2. Don't own one yet, but the tsunami is at hand, certainly, and all the people on shore have no idea what the ground will look like after it washes over them. No one. No one knows what the business model will be, how anyone will make serious money, which publishers and bookstores will be left standing, who will be swept away and who will be clinging to some firmly planted post.

    Writers of fiction need to get busy now, stitching their life preservers out of great stories, one after another. Stories don't get written by devices and that's our currency. The world will always need us, though in what form is up in the air, like the curl of that tidal wave.

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  3. Writers are poor, I know, but we need to support the industry we want to work in. So make a choice; don't wait around, and certainly invest in the market that you want to be a part of. One thing to consider about amazon kindle is that they have global reach now, as the dominant market, and publishers are going to recognize that as a huge market. Google is the biggest threat, not BN. As a writer, I actually like the fact that amazon protects my rights. I'm on board with them, but then again, they're only ONE outlet for my rights and I'm not going to get so hung up about these things. Most writers recognize that e-rights are only one license among many available in a contract, and that even e-titles can be sold across different platforms. So while I'm backing amazon right now, I'm not married to them.

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  4. I'm going by my old software-buyer's rule: Never buy the first generation of anything that hits the market. I do love the idea of easy storage and the ability to enlarge text, but otherwise I'll look for the reader that's the most like the print reading experience in every other way. Screen reading does get physically tiring after a while.

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  5. Mark, I’d be shocked if Apple didn’t get into this war.

    Jim, nicely put. You’re right, the need us. Let’s just hope it stays that way.

    Mike, your comments prove that “first to market” always grabs the biggest chunk of the share. E-readers aren’t going away. Even poor writers need to invest in the future. You can do that right now on eBay with used readers.

    Good advice, Kathryn. I’ve been burned by first generation tech in the past. But I love being on that bleeding edge.

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  6. I'm hanging tight - I have a feeling the Apple tablet may have an e-reader that's cool...but I'm getting ready to get an e-reader that's for sure.

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  7. Sure is a lot of talk out there in the blogosphere on the topic at the moment. Everyone's getting into the act ... just in time for Christmas shopping.

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  8. Mixed feelings here about them. I love reading an actual book, but I also just love to read. And as a former librarian and teacher, I thnk that anything that gets people to read can't be all bad. I will definitely wait for the prices to come down, though. Still too steep for my bank account.

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  9. No, I don't want it, I don't like it.

    My eyes hurt from staring at my infernal computer screen for hours on end, why would I want to waste a perfectly good book by reading it in "e" format?

    Call me old fashion, but I love the smell of a book, the feel of the bound tome in my hand. I want to hold it in front of me without worrying about the screen brightness or contrast.

    Computers were an awesome invention, yes, they've made things much easier for us writers. But, I will not...WILL NOT...ever own an e-reader.

    Nope...won't do it.

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  10. Ebooks are great ideas. Carry around a library of books and read whenever you want. That's the idea anyway. The reality is different. First, when I get an ebook I only license it and that means it can be restricted to a single device or even a period of time. Then, since I don't own the book I can't give it to anyone else - unless I want to give away my $200 reader. Finally, when I am finished with the book I can't transfer the license, I can only delete the file.
    Call me a luddite but I think I like paper books better - at least for now.
    Some milestones I'm watching for are:
    The first time a major book seller has more ebooks than bound books.
    The first time a major house publishes a major author only in ebooks and not at all in bound books.
    The first time ebooks without video are called 'old fashioned'.
    After these pass I will undoubtedly have an ebook reader.

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  11. Since the Kindle 2 will be available in Australia now, I'm going to give it a try. As a sci-fi fan, how can I resist the new tech? Yet, I love my paper books. I'm planning to buy my favorite authors' work in hardback/paperback and stuff I want to try as e-books. They're cheaper and won't add to my already overflowing bookshelves, so I'm hoping I'll read even more. Volume has got to help authors and counteract any loss due to pirating. Plus, didn't I read somewhere that authors usually get a higher % of money from e-book sales? And don't forget all the trees it will save. I'm optimistic about the rise of e-books and will be sticking a toe in the water this Christmas.

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