What started out as simple observations about forms of reading, ended up turning into a major research project for me over the last few days. I’ve been all over the internet during this time, starting with Alan’s post called eBooks are the Future and from there going to countless other websites. It was informative and interesting to see what other people think.
It seems that more and more people are thinking along the same lines as me…that ebooks will be the way of the future. However, it is also evident that it will be a while before they “take over the world”. From what I can fathom, this is mainly due to two reasons:
1. Format. Until a worldwide standard format can be decided on, there will be on going problems due to the fact that readers (the device, not the person) will be limited to the formats it is compatible with. This limits the person using the device to what they can read and also what price they have to pay to buy the ebooks they select, as they won’t be free to shop around. Whilst this is an issue, paper books will remain popular.
2. Price of readers. They are expensive! When the cost of these devices come done then I believe ebook sales will climb through the roof. But…technology is the only area I know of that prices DO come down over time, which means if we wait long enough ebook readers will be as common as the mobile phone.
During my research three names cropped up continually: Kindle, Sony and iPhone. Each time a new name came up I got excited and my research turned in another direction, with the hope of cheaper devices…that didn’t happen.
Kindle is about $US299 and is associated with Amazon, and for that reason alone I felt an invisible barrier come up as I am reluctant to head in a direction that I know will be very limiting for me. Amazon, in my opinion, are trying to grab this corner of the market by offering their own reading device. I understand that the device reads pdf and doc formats as well as its own format, but I also understand that Amazon are charging at least $US9.99 for an ebook, with some as high as $US16, which I believe is too expensive. Why spend that money on something digital, when you could buy a paper book instead. It makes no sense to me. Besides that, I wonder how much the author gets of the cost? Half? Less than half? A couple of dollars? If asked, I’m sure Amazon would say that the publisher and/or author sets the price, not them, but I know that Amazon would set the rules and their charges which force the prices up, up, up. OK, they are in it to make money, that’s the way of the world, but the whole thing smells of greed to me and I’ll be staying away from that option.
Sony is another option and it sells for about the same price as the Kindle. From what I can see the Sony is compatible with more formats, which makes it a better option for me because I could purchase ebooks from all over the internet. In other words, I can shop around and get the best deals and not be limited to just one outlet. But, the cost of the device is high and I have a little voice in my head saying to wait until the kinks have been ironed out and the price drops dramatically.
Then there’s the iPhone, which could be a good alternative for some people. Especially if they install the Stanza application, which is a free (open source) ebook reader. The fact that I saw the words “open source” made me feel comfortable with this option straight away as I’ve been a Linux user and understand how software of this type works. To me, it means improvements are always happening and the latest software is always available. It also means that as many formats as possible will be compatible through this software, which is a good thing. And, as an added bonus, I could listen to audio books as well. Now that sounds perfect! But…I don’t have an iPhone and if I want one I would have to go onto a plan to get one, which I will not do. Currently I am prepaid on my mobile and I spend about $30 to $60 a year (I rarely use the thing, as you may have gathered). A plan would be that amount each month! Or, I can buy one outright, but the cost is around $AU800 to $AU1,000 which means this option is definitely out of the question for me.
At the end of all this, I’m still no better off. I still think printed books are the better way to go. And I will continue to check out what’s available in the future for when a company finally realises that they could conquer the market by not being greedy and offering the consumer something that is inexpensive and full of format compatibilities.
I will wait for that day!