Friday, November 6, 2009

E-book reader wars . . .

By Lonnie Cruse

In case you missed it, there's a war going on. An e-book reader war that involves various devices manufactured and sold by various companies. I think it started with Sony bringing out a device that readers could use to download and read e-books. Around that same time Amazon had its original Kindle e-book reader as well. Kindle was more expensive than Sony, but Kindle fans believed it had more capability than the Sony. Of course, Sony owners didn't necessarily agree. Some readers are so fond of the devices that they own both a Sony and a Kindle.

Just this year Kindle has introduced three new models, Kindle 2, Kindle DX, and this month, a Kindle 2 that could be used outside of the United States to download books directly to the unit without using a computer. The first three Kindles could only download books directly to the unit while inside the U. S. The Whispernet used to download didn't then reach outside the U.S.

Things really heated up in this war of the devices when Amazon cut the price dramatically on the original Kindle 2. In other words, Kindle was competing not only with Sony but with itself, bringing out newer products very quickly to entice new owners, but sometimes irritating those who had already bought a device, not knowing a newer model was just around the corner or that the price was about to drop. The drop in price particularly irritated those who bought Kindle 2 within this year. A one hundred dollar price drop. It didn't irritate me, mind you. Like many others, I believe I've gotten my money's worth on the difference I paid in January to what Kindle 2 is selling for now because the Kindle books are generally cheaper than a hard copy, so I've saved on what I've downloaded as opposed to what I used to buy at the book store. And I'm not good at waiting.

This month Barnes and Noble introduced its very own e-book reader device into the battle. It's called a Nook. Like the Kindle, B & N's books can be ordered to download directly to the unit via Whispernet, without using a computer. And they can be paid for that way (purchases are automatically charged to your account.) According to the B & N website, these e-books can be shared with and/or loaned to other device owners, as easily as me loaning you a hard copy of a book I enjoyed. And this is a perk not currently available from Amazon.

However, Amazon has tons of free e-books available to download to a Kindle. Some of these books are classics, no longer under copyright, like Jane Austin's books. Or a Sherlock Holmes series. And many modern-day publishers offer their current authors' books for free, at least for a short time, in order to entice new readers. And these aren't unknown authors, but some of the big names in the business. I didn't see a mention of free books on the B & N website, but maybe I missed it. Often these Amazon freebies last only a few days, then the books become full price, and those of us who were on the alert and managed to nab said freebie tend to look down our cyber noses on those who hesitated . . . and lost.

Word on the Internet is that more companies will be coming out with their version of an e-reader in the near future. It's the wave of the future. Yes, there are many people who love the feel of a real book in their hands. I'm one of them. But I'm also someone who owns multiple bookcases FULL of books. I'm out of room. My e-book reading Kindle allows me to read books that I want to enjoy but not keep forever. And I don't have to take them to the used bookstore or donate them somewhere when I'm done. Might sound selfish, but it also means fewer trees destroyed in order for me to continue reading.

Right now the number one item on the wish list for e-book reader owners is FOLDERS! We all want folders on our units so we can drop books that have been read into one folder, keep new, unread books in another folder, keep samples in yet another. (And did I mention that you can download samples of books on most of these readers for free, much the same as reading a chapter or two while standing in a book store?) Another item on our e-reader wish list is the ability to swap books with friends like we can do with hard copy books. We'd love cheaper prices for the units and the books, more freebie books, stuff like that.

So, dear book reader, do you think you will ever become an e-book reader owner? Which side of the war are you on?

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I own the kindle and love it, but I tend to read mostly from my iPhone with the Kindle App. It's a bit more portable for carrying around with me since I'd cary a phone anyway. I also downloaded the B&N Reader App, but so far every book I've wanted to purchase has been cheaper on Amazon. I'm not sure if there is an app for the Sony Reader or not, I've been too happy with Amazon / Kindle that I didn't even look for it.

Laura K. Curtis said...

The Nook's pretty, but major publishers have already said they won't sign up for the lending feature, which means it's pretty much useless. Since that was the MAJOR draw of the Nook, I plan to stick with my Kindle. I've got a post about the Nook vs the Kindle here: http://www.womenofmystery.net/2009/10/playing-nook-ie.html

A lot of things will change over the next couple of years, both in electronic and paper publishing. I don't think there's any way to know yet exactly how it will shake out.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Thanks for your comments! Wow, Laura, I hadn't heard about the problem with Nook (publishers not wanting owners to share books.) THAT would bother me a lot.

signlady217 said...

I think they definitely have a place in the lives of readers, but I'm waiting until they come down in price, and have more freebies available.

Venus de Hilo said...

I snatched up a Kindle 2 as soon as the price went down. I only have about 15 titles on it so far, and already I am yearning for folders, so I hope that's in the works. I do expect more and better readers will be developed, and I do expect there will be shake-outs in the reader wars, but by the time that's happened I will have gotten my money's worth (and more) from my Kindle and be ready to trade-up (assuming my library is transferable!). Who'll come out on top, with what device? I won't try to predict, but I have immense confidence in Amazon's determination to stay on top of the heap, however things develop.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Thanks for your comments Venus and Sign Lady! Interesting to hear from other Kindle owners.

Bernadette in Australia said...

I will buy one but I am waiting for a while yet. Down here at the bottom of the world e-readers aren't that accessible - the Kindle is newly available but it's not the current version and few publishers have signed up yet so the kind of stuff I like to read is, mostly, not available. And frankly if I'm going to spend $300 on yet another gadget to carry everywhere (on top of my smart phone, iPod and separate camera) then I want to be a really useful gadget - perhaps even one which replaces one of those others. I'm not morally opposed to the idea of e-readers but I want it to be financially and technologically worthwile

Sandra Parshall said...

Every time technology sprints in a new direction, "war" is declared. :-) But it's simply progress and change, and it will come regardless of how desperately some people try to hold it at bay. The e-book prices, and competition between the various brands of e-readers, will shake out in the marketplace, and five years from now we'll have trouble recalling a time when e-readers didn't exist. I'm delighted that soon all my books, including my upcoming February release, will be available for the Kindle and Sony reader, and my first two novels are already available in e-form from B&N.com.

I'm in favor of people READING, no matter how they do it. I firmly believe that a human brain will rot if it's never allowed to focus on the written version of our language(s). Language is what distinguishes us as a species, and if we let the written form of language fall into disuse, we will have lost a huge part of our identity as humans. So read, people, read -- read hardcovers, and paperbacks, and comic books, and Kindles and Nooks and Sonys and anything else that strikes your fancy, but keep on reading!

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