Monday 9 August 2010

e-Readers - Who do they REALLY benefit?

I'm a moderate reader.

I've usually got a book on the go and am probably also reading the latest Classic & Sportscar, Motor Trend and National Geographic at any point in time, plus the odd magazine now and then that takes my fancy.

I'm also a fan of good modern technology, although not an early adopter (or a fashion-victim), and my eye has been taken, unsurprisingly by the e-readers that people like Sony and Amazon offer.

I'm not a fan of reading on a traditional computer screen, CRT or flat screen, but I must admit the quality of e-reader screens has impressed me greatly with the e-ink which is fairly hard to tell from well printed books on the better e-readers.

The latest Amazon Kindle is only a little more than £100 and is lighter and thinner than most paperbacks - It seems a great little bit of kit and I succumbed and pre-ordered one.

However, after a couple of days thought I cancelled it. Why?

Well, one thing I enjoy doing is browsing charity shops and picking up novels and the odd non-fiction work. This benefits lots of people. The charity gets some money, I save quite a lot of money and often, when I've read it, the book goes back to the shop.

The e-reader model doesn't lend itself to that. Sure I can get free books, but that doesn't aid a charity. OK, I could just donate some cash to the charity (and indeed I do), but that's not the same experience for me. Also, the free books tend to be extremely old or extremely poor. The latest bestsellers aren't going to be free for the foreseeable future.

The second flaw is that I can lend my books to friends and family. I can't do that with a proprietary Kindle book and not everyone will like the books I do, so taking a chance on a Kindle book is an expensive option.

Look on and you'll find most books are available secondhand (in printed form) for much less than the Kindle price; sometimes book are cheaper than the Kindle edition new.

You can carry 3,000 books with you on an e-reader and get hold of any book anywhere with a 3G or wi-fi connection, but honestly, how often will you need to do either of those things?

Obviously, the requirement to buy a totally new edition for everyone who wants to read a book is very appealing to one group of people, the e-book sellers.

I'll continue to watch the e-reader market with interest, but at the moment it looks like a commercially driven technology which really only benefits the sellers.

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