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Molly, you're carying around a dedicated reading device...

by jpathomas / November 20, 2007 3:21 AM PST

It's called a "book". You have purchased duplicate devices over and over and over and likely have them all over your house. Two or three by the bed, another four or five on the coffee table.

You are very likely to also have some variations on the device, known as "magazines" or possibly "news papers". These are devices used to deliver one time use information, and lose their value quickly over time.

Now, just for a moment, imagine a world where all the disposable printed stuff in your life didn't come on paper, but came in a small device that updated itself whenever there was new information. Imagine getting on the train or bus in the morning, taking out this device and reading the paper from your home town. Imagine never having find someone who wants your old copy of Time or Newsweek, because as soon as you were done with it you could push a button and it would be gone. Not into a landfill, but really, really gone.

I said imagine because it's not where we're at yet, but it's where we should be going. Every time we print a news paper, every time we print a magazine, every time we print some bit of technical documentation we're wasting resources. Not just paper and ink (though the production of those things is very toxic) but power for the presses and fuel for the trucks. Nothing I can think of is more unnecessary than a physical copy of the New York Times.

And we all know that most of the books we read are not going to stand the test of time. I mean really, do you actually think you're going to read the average novel more than once? If you read a book and you love it, go buy a hard copy, the money you save on e-books will more than offset the cost of buying something you love twice.

So, why not use your laptop or your phone? What makes an e-reader better?

First, ease of use. The Kindle (which I don't own... yet) will deliver seamless news and information to its users, via EVDO, with no computer or syncing. The Sony Reader (which I do own) is no harder to use than an iPod, and it takes the place of several of those other "dedicated reading devices" that I used to tote around. Not to mention the better battery life, lighter weight and ease of use compared to a laptop.

Second, the screen is better. I want to pull out my hair every time someone says "but there's no back lite". Yeah, there's no back light on the "dedicated reading devices" you're using now. My Sony Reader display is 167 DPI, you're not getting that on your phone or PDA. And compared to my Treo, which I recharge EVERY SINGLE DAY my Sony only needs to be plugged in for a few hours a week.

E-books are not where they need to be, not yet, but it's things like the Kindle, the Sony Reader, Mobi all the other electronic book formats that are leading us where we need to be. Not to a life without paper, but to a life where paper is valued as something more than a media for information we don't really care about.

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the price is the issue
by mementh / November 20, 2007 7:22 AM PST

I honestly belive that the main issue with any product is price..
if the kindle was prices @ 99 there would be a flood of users compared to what they have now.
If it was $50 it would be in a ton of boxes unde the tree for this xmas..

its not the product its the price. I can go get a newspaper for $2 @ a newsstand or a book for $5-8..
this causes us when we see a $400 reader to not want it.. we don't see benifits of it in our daily lives.

The first e-book reader that gets to $50 will dominate like the IPOD has today.

Book publishers are strangely diffrent from music publishers in the fact they let you re-download without re-paying which means it would be easyer to work with for the consumer.
But there will still be drm.. but i would think its less obtrusive here (which makes it better)

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Yeah $400 is way too much question is, will the price drop
by merrybrown / November 22, 2007 5:00 AM PST
In reply to: the price is the issue

any time soon?

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The primary benefit is carrying MULTIPLE content sources
by Vance14 / November 20, 2007 8:18 AM PST

The primary benefit I can see is being able to carry a number of different books, magazines, blogs and documents in one book-size device. That is why I liked reading on my Palm as well.

Also, a big benefit of the Palm was the backlight, so that I could read comfortably in a dark area. Does the Kindle have a backlight?

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Back lites and Contents
by jpathomas / November 20, 2007 2:48 PM PST

The Kindle doesn't have a back lite, but that's not a mistake, it's a choice made to save battery life. I know a lot of people are talking about the lack of a back lite, but I have to say that I don't find it an issue with my Sony Reder, any more than I find it an issue with a regular book.

You're right about the ability to carry multiple things is a big point in any e-reader's favor. I have about 18 books in my Sony at any given time. I could have more of course, I just tend to take e-books off it after I'm done with them.

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by Nicholas Buenk / November 21, 2007 11:36 AM PST

White background, anti-aliased text. Should make it even better for reading stuff on than the kindle.
All that's required is an app and itunes ebook feature for it to match the ease of use of a kindle.
Why would anyone want to carry around a separate device merely for reading.
Paperback is a pain to hold open, takes up room in your house (bookshelves are huge people), and involves cutting down a tree. No thanks.

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Wide range of use
by Etherel15 / November 24, 2007 8:29 AM PST

It's inarguable that one tiny tablet-like device that stores many many books, and is update-able on the go is a very very seductive reason to getting these e-readers, I think its going to be a long time before they'd ever replace my books (suppliment, sure, but not replace).

First, my favorite advantage of a book is I don't need anything besides the book and a little light. Ever. Wether its just sitting around the house, out camping, long trips, waiting in offices, conventions, or just out-and-about, All I have to do is pull it out. I rely on books above other portable entertainment because it's always ready to go, never needs updating, maintenance, charging, etc. My other quirk is its durability. Outside of sinking it in a pool of water or dropping it in a huge shredding device, my book will keep on going. It can take a huge beating, get dropped from large heights, smashed, torn, thrown, crunched, smooshed, and all manner of horrible things, and still be usable and readable. e-readers not so much.

I don't think I'll ever replace my reading material with an e-reader until they're made of durable flexible nearly-unbreakable thin rolls of futuristic material, that will roll up into my pocket, I can take out, pull it open, and its surface will harness solar power to recharge itself while I read (plus it has to be 100% anti-glare to boot, and allow me to write notes in the margins) and be priced somewhere under $100. As this seems unlikely in the near future, my books will not be replaced anytime in the near future. Suppliment yes, but no way will they be replaced the same way MP3's are replacing hard mediums. Even then, theres a certain romanticism about holding the book, smelling the paper, and turning the pages that will captivate humankind for probably generations on.

Thats my 2 cents though, I'm sure not everyone has the same personal opinions, but I bet there are quite a few who follow mine.

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Molly doesn't read the forums
by russiancatfood / November 25, 2007 7:28 AM PST

... she said so herself.

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That's not good
by Nicholas Buenk / November 25, 2007 2:07 PM PST

She has posted a few times, but why did she stop reading them?

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Wait, what?
by mollywood CNET staff / November 27, 2007 7:37 AM PST

When did I ever say I didn't read the forums? I even post now and again -- more importantly, I certainly read them!

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I think what what they may be thinking of . . .
by Vance14 / November 27, 2007 7:52 AM PST
In reply to: Wait, what?

I remember a while back a discussion on BOL where someone joked about your posting about once a month or so, but I only vaguely recall it. I do know that you and Tom have occasionally referred to discussions going on in the forums, so I know you do at least browse around.

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The Kindle isn't it....
by CouchGuy / November 27, 2007 3:11 AM PST

There's too much wrong-headedness about the Kindle -- enough that I fear it may set the eBook back several years when it fails spectacularly.

The Kindle could survive some of the interface gliches it has, and the fact that it is generally considered to be an ugly piece of industrial design. I'm not sure it will survive the supremely stupid move of trying to sell you blogs you are used to getting for free. (Instead, they should be making the blogs available free and using that to get you to buy the Kindle so they can sell you books and magazines!) The book pricing isn't where it should be (comfortably less than paperbacks), but it could get there.

The worst thing about the Kindle, though, is that the device is MASSIVELY too expensive. To succeed, this needs to catch the mass of paperback book buyers out there -- the folks who keep Amazon and Barnes & Noble in business. To do that, it will have to overcome the initial sales resistance, and it can't do that at anything like this price point. If the device is a stand-alone sale, it needs to come in for about $100 or less. If the unit is multi-function, it could cost more. That means it has to have another compelling function that can displace an existing device. If it were the world's coolest MP3 player, PDA, cell phone or portable web browser AS WELL AS a damn fine ebook reader, it could sell for more.

The smarter move would have been to partner with Apple, who already has the most compelling MP3 player/portable video device/cell phone/portable web browser out there in the iPhone. The iPhone/iPod Touch is not the perfect reader device, but the idea is to get people to buy ebooks and if they already HAVE a different reason to buy the reader device, you are halfway there. A larger Apple-designed/Amazon-backed reader device with a perfect reader interface (that also doubled as a web browser/video player as part of the existing Apple iTunes ecosystem) could follow -- and be the breakout market product.

Too late for that now, though, alas... maybe.


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