Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ereaders and technology

I like books.

I like how books feel. I like how they smell. I like how they look on my shelf.

I don't like ereaders. I've seen most of them, even the Kindle, in person. I just don't see the point.

  • Yes, they are portable, but so is a book and I don't have to worry about battery life in my books.
  • Yes, you can take hundreds of books with you, but I've never wanted to do that.
  • Yes, you can go on vacation and not carry books in your suitcase, but I've never been anywhere that I couldn't go and buy a new book.
  • Yes, you can get your email on it, but I really don't want or need my email in my book. I have a laptop, thank you.
  • Yes, you can order your books from the device, but I like going to the bookstore. I like grabbing a bunch of books and sitting down to see which one I will purchase.
  • Yes, Amazon allows you to preview the book. But what are you previewing? What sections? Do they really give you a fair preview? Or is it like a movie trailer, where you are shown the only good scenes of the movie?
  • And if I lose a book, I've only lost the cost of one book, not the gadget and all the books on it.

I don't like how the words look on the screen. I don't like how it feels in my hand. The extras that come with it are unnecessary. Books work fine.

I've seen a new technology push out old ones. Vinyl to CD to digital files for music. VCRs to DVD. But in both of those cases, the new product was vastly improved. I buy music files online, but I still miss the liner notes from the vinyl albums. And I didn't by a DVD player until The Lord of the Rings came out. That was the first movie that I really wanted to see in the quality of DVD and I wanted the extras.

And there is the cost. Why should I pay for a device to read books when I have eyes and hands. That's all I need.

Before you write me off as a technophobe, please remember that I work in Information Technology, and have for about 20 years. I do not fear technology, I'm the person who has to make it work, and I find that stimulating and exciting.

Perhaps that is part of the problem. A large part of my job is integration of technology. When I look at a new gadget or device, my first thought is not: Look how cool this is! No, I think: How will this help? What problem will it solve? What problems will it create? Do we need this or do our users just think it it "cool"?

The Kindle is priced at $259. Now that isn't a fortune, but since it doesn't solve any problems, have any great features that I want, and I have a kid in college, I don't see the advantage. Plus, there is no guarantee that the device will be backwards compatible. Will the file formats change with technology changes? Will I be forced to replace all of my content because I need a new device? Will I need to buy a new device to get new content?

Perhaps the next generation of ereaders will provide enough benefits to sway me. When cell phones first came out they were expensive to buy and use. The companies used the marketing plan of free phones. They provided the phone at no cost and made up their money on service. I still use a free phone today. Will the ereader go this way? That could make the difference in it being a niche item or not.

I do see a market for ereaders: College text books. Cheap text books that don't break your arms carrying them around. I would go for that market, if I were in the ereader business.


Sam said...

Welcome back!

I'll probably get an e-reader eventually, but the prices will have to be lower. Since I'm currently having to weed out a couple hundred books from my personal library for lack of space, the idea of having electronic versions has grown more appealing.

OTOH, I do like to read in the pool. Drop a book ,and I'm out between ten and forty bucks. Drop an e-reader... Again, if the price is low enough it might be worth it. Not now, though.

Beast said...

I agree with you. I'd much rather have the book than have a device read it to me. Although having my biology books in a file would be a lot nicer. It should also cut down on the cost of the book as well.

MoiraG said...

Instinctively I don't like the idea of replacing books. There is a 'however': on occasion I fly on a holiday abroad from the UK and in two weeks I get through eight sizeable novels. That's when I'd like an e-reader, for the weight limit of my luggage.
And before you say it, not all hotels have books you can borrow, or not the ones you want to read.

Julia said...

MoiraG: Wouldn't you rather wander through a British bookstore and read what the locals read? When I'm on vacation, one of the first things I look for is a local, independent bookstore. I know, I'm such a nerd.