It isn’t the first time I have tried to read an ebook, but it is the first time I have read one all the way through. My previous attempt was as an undergraduate at Loughborough University (approx. 2002), and despite the nifty little ebook reader, the book was not particularly to my liking. In comparison Shaw’s ‘An Unsocial Socialist’ fits nicely with my general approach to society at large, and my opinions of Tories in particular (i.e., selfish, idiots, or both); it had me hooked to the end. Whilst I have yet to see an ebook reader that hopes to challenge more than the fringes of the codex market, the prevalence of freely available pdf books (e.g., 20 Free eBooks about Social Marketing) is beginning to persuade me that there is a place for these devices. Whilst I have found myself coveting the reasonably priced Sony Reader (tempting me every time I walk into my local Waterstones), I don’t particular want to carry around an additional electronic device. I therefore decided to try reading a book on my N95 using Mobi Reader.
The advantage of reading a book on a mobile phone is that most people carry their mobile with them always. The disadvantage is, in the same way as a dedicated ebook reader, you are more concerned about damaging or losing the device. One of my favourite times to read is walking down the street, however I found myself acutely aware of the fact that my phone was much more likely to be the target of an opportunistic thief than a 10p novel from a charity shop. Nonetheless, despite fears for my phone, I found the N95/Mobi Reader combo to provide a useful reading device, and if those who create the free pdf versions would also make a free Mobi Reader version of their books I would never look at a Sony Reader again.
Nb. If you do want to create your own ebook for the Mobi Reader then All About Symbian had a useful post the other week.
Update: Using the Mobipocket Reader desktop version makes converting PDFs to the mobile reader AMAZINGLY easy. I can’t believe I haven’t been doing this for years.
Borders are claiming to be the first UK retailer to sell an e-book reader this weekend. They have decided to stock the iLiad (presumably the new one rather than the original), at a cost of £399. But who will buy one from a bookshop?
I think Borders have probably moved a bit too soon on this one, the general public just aren’t ready for ebooks yet, and those geeks who do want one will either buy an iLiad online or, more likely, wait for a Kindle. Personally I am not a fan of e-books, and definitely not a fan off a £399 initial outlay however many public domain works they bundle with it (currently 50). Thinking about it, however, I don’t know if there is a price that would make me interested. The traditional book is just too damned nice.
Dedicated ebook readers have come and gone, although the buzz surrounding Kindle would seem to indicate that Amazon’s forthcoming addition to the market is liable to make a bit of a splash. Whilst it may make certain inroads, we are a long way from the death of the traditional book, and personally I won’t be buying a dedicated ebook reader anytime soon.
Dedicated ebook readers have always been a hard sell. By separating the content from the reader (the traditional book nicely packages the two together), the consumer has a large initial outlay with few additional benefits. Yes the Kindle can hold hundreds of books, and has a long battery life, but would I really want to be sitting in the bath with it? Or on the beach? Could I throw it across the room in frustration? Or spill coffee on it? Whilst the technology has improved, they are still struggling to create something that matches the durability of the traditional book.
“I’ve actually asked myself, ‘Why do I love these physical objects?’ ” says Bezos. ” ‘Why do I love the smell of glue and ink?’ The answer is that I associate that smell with all those worlds I have been transported to. What we love is the words and ideas.”
I don’t doubt that part of the reason people love the physical objects is the association with the words and ideas, but there is also the love of the book as an object. An object that can be passed from one person to another. An object that is forever associated with a particular time or place with the marks and bookmarks seemingly forever embedded in it. The web is filled with more words and ideas than my personal library ever will be, but whilst I would be annoyed at the loss of my computer or internet access, I would mourn the passing of my library.
There are similarities between the music industry and book industry but we should be careful in taking the comparisons too far. Within the music industry there has always been a separation between content and player, and whilst CDs offered an enhanced sound quality over vinyl, they were never particularly loved in the same way and their passing wasn’t missed as much. Books are loved as physical objects.
There are without doubt occasions when an ebook reader will be of more use than the traditional book, but for the majority such occasions will be few and far between and the reader will be better served by their mobile phone or mini-laptop. Technology can bring advantaged to the book industry, but I much more eagerly await the appearance of high quality print-on-demand facilities in local bookshops than ebook readers.