Just read an article about the forthcoming Kindle DX eBook reader. Ever since the eBook concept was first brought to the public eye, friends and family have said, “Ugh, I can’t imagine reading a whole book on a laptop.” I’m sure I’m not the only person who was forward-looking, but for at least the last 10 years I have responded with, “But wait until the electronic ‘page’ starts to look and feel like a real one. You’ll see!”. I don’t think the current generation of eBook readers are there yet. But the screen colours and contrast at least aren’t eye-offending.
Here’s where I get annoyed, though: I have always been counting on the advent of the eBook to bring down the prices of books again. After all, a small marked-up text file is cheaper to produce, manufacture (there is no manufacture), and distribute than a real book. Pass the savings along to the readers! But no. This world is effing greedy, and new eBooks cost roughly the same as a paperback.
What will really get me to move to an eBook reader like the Kindle DX is the combination of a few things:
1. Lower price for a unit: ~$400 is still too much for a rather focused tool. Eye strain or not, if I were to spend $400 on something similar, it would be for a netbook. Why? ROI. The assumption is that to get return on investment, you should weigh against the cost of the existing alternative (printed books). For $400 I can get:
- a dozen new (current) hardcovers
- 30 new paperbacks (the same as 30 new eBooks, it should be stated)
- 60 or so “Bargain Section” (but new) hardcovers
- 60 or so used hardcovers (it’s debatable whether the market in used books should be allowed since authors and publishers get no additional revenue; but it’s not illegal!)
- 100 used paperbacks (see above re: used books)
You can’t even GET used eBooks unless you want to be shady. Unlike the printed version (a physical asset), as far as I know if you redistribute an eBook you are breaking copyright and committing piracy. Arrrrr…. It would take me probably 8 years to get through 100 books.
2. Lower price for the downloadable books: ~$10–$15 for an eBook from the bestsellers list is the same cost as the same book when it comes out in paperback. I prefer hardcovers in general, but you’re not getting that with the eBook either.
3. Increased personal spending on books. Whether it’s the rising cost of paper books or increasing my volume of reading beyond 8-12 per year (at best), if my personal yearly spend on books increases into the hundreds, it would be worth it to me to have an eBook reader.
4. Desire for the technical features. I think this is what they’re counting on. People deciding they just want their several-dozen books in one portable place, or people who find it more convenient to read at night with a backlit screen than with annoying booklights.
Until these things conspire to make an eBook the right option, my smugness at having predicted more readable eye-friendly screens is squashed alongside my dreams of people offering eBooks for the right non-gouging, non-opportunistic cost.
Finally, because I like images in my posts… I just grabbed this from a related Kindle DX article over at betanews about the Kindle DX. The author liked the screensaver. Someone has made a quiz out of it. I got (shameful for a lit major, but we were reading books, not looking at pictures!) 3 out of 5. I didn’t register at the end, so I don’t know how highly I ranked. (scroll way down… weird empty space automatically inserted…)