Thursday, 17 December 2009

Ereaders - so what do you think?

I'm waiting for the next generation of ereaders, the ones that will be better designed and cost less than £100. (I'm not cheapskate, just...not rich.) I'm also waiting for publishers to acknowledge that ebooks should be way cheaper than conventional books, as they cost so much less to produce, and nothing to store or transport.

At under £100, I'd have bought one for my daughter's Christmas present; she's an avid reader but hasn't got her own home or car yet, and books are terribly heavy to move about. She runs out of books to read, and the ability to instantly download a novel when you want it is just what she needs.

Like many people, she's not keen on ereaders. She likes proper paper books. But I'm sure a good ereader would convert her, and I'm equally sure that they will take a big share of the market, given time. And this opens up opportunities for indie authors. Right now, Eric Christopherson with his exciting thriller, Crack-Up, is taking advantage of the new technology to offer his book direct to the public on Amazon at a bargain price, is selling significant numbers, and making a decent profit per download.

If he can do it, others can, and will.


  1. You know I am in favor of the things, even though, like you, I haven't one myself. The opportunities for an author who has no other direct distribution channels available are undeniable. And the opportunities for readers (the people, that is) to find and support new authors is enhanced greatly. I do hope it never spells the end of the hardcopy of books, there is simply something too, well, marvelously sensual about them, but I think that it simply adds another way to accumulate, transport and enjoy literature and information. And that has to be a good thing.

  2. Yes; and I bet they get affordable in America first. For some reason, everything's more expensive over here.

  3. I have been using my Iphone as an ereader. It is pretty easy to read especially as you can change the font size just by putting two fingers on the screen and moving them apart until the letters are the right size.
    I have this fantasy about getting the software developer kit for Iphone apps and offering aspiring authors a platform to sell books to iphone addicts.

  4. Rod, that sounds handy, though the small number of words per page might be irksome for a fast reader?

    (My mobile is ancient and seldom used - I'm not a phone person.)

  5. Hi Lexi
    Like you, I'm not a phone or a gadget person. I picked up an eReader in Waterstones to see what the fuss was about, and was immediately frustrated by the fact that I had to click so frequently to turn the 'page'. And wait (ok milliseconds, but wait nonetheless) while the 'page' refreshed.

    I can see how the technology would suit someone like your daughter. But I have no need to carry more than one book with me at a time and I love what Alan describes as the sensual aspect of reading.

    What you describe is happening with 'Crack-Up' is great though. Hopefully there's room for the old and the new to sit together. I'd be very happy to sample opening chapters of a book I was interested in electronically, and then have the option to buy it either hardcopy or e-version. I still want to go into actual bookshops and browse actual books as well though!

    I guess what the consumer needs is choice. And sensible pricing.

  6. K, you make me realize I must go and take a look - or rather handle - an ereader.

    (I must also decide how I am going to spell it - ereader, eReader, e-reader?)

  7. It'll be interesting to hear what you think after the 'touch test', Lexi. Let us know, won't you?

  8. Will do - I'll make a full report in a blog post.

  9. I tested a Sony Reader for a few weeks. I'm not terribly impressed. Current ebooks cost as much as paper ones (Amazon's Kindle being an exception because you, technically, don't own the book) and you can't resell the used book or donate it to your local lending library.

    There are free books available because they're in the public domain (in America anyway). But I didn't find any that I wanted to read.

    I think there's a market in renting preloaded ereaders out for air travelers...

  10. That's something I hadn't thought of - that you can't pass the book on. I had wondered what happened if the ereader stopped working; whether you'd lose all the books you'd paid for.

    Conventional books last indefinitely. I've got books of my mother's that were printed during WW2 to the paper restrictions of the time.

  11. Hi, Eric Christopherson here. Latest news on Crack-Up: 0ver 800 sold now and last week I was contacted by a Hollywood management and production company inquiring about the TV/Film rights. All for a book by one of the world's worst self-marketers. I think you've just done more for the book, Lexi, than I've done myself all month.

    Regarding ereaders I've read Apple will be coming out early next year with its new Tablet, complete with ereading function. I suspect dedicated ereaders will one day disappear, but perhaps not for another five years or more. That Tablet, for example, is going on sale for a grand, they say, and it'll take a while before multifunctional units like that come down.

  12. Hi Eric - that's terrific news.

    The fact that Crack-Up is an absorbing read must be an important part of your success with it, though I'm sure you are too modest about your marketing abilities. I read your posts on Authonomy on the subject with great interest.

  13. If you buy an ereader, buy it for the convenience, not because it might save paper. My back-of-the-envelope calculation[1] leads me to believe that each Kindle, mobile phone, etc., leave about 100-200 pounds of toxic garbage in its wake. Our carbon footprint is more than CO2, it includes CN (cyanide).

    Does the item's convenience outweigh the cost? Forests return. Plastics and cyanide dumps don’t go away.

    Ereader don't save paper either. Since Kindle debuted, Amazon is selling more books. Amazon's CEO, Jeff Bezos told attendees at the 2008 BookExpo America, an annual bookseller’s tradeshow, “After purchasing Kindle, customers continue to purchase the same number of physical books that they bought before buying their Kindle, but altogether…their [ebook plus physical] book purchases on Amazon increased by a factor of 2.6.”

    For more, read Save Trees, Use More Paper and Paper or Plastic?

    1. Calculation is based on the Ecological Rucksack developed by the Danish Friends of the Earth, another estimate from Earthworks, the PBS Frontline report, The Toxic Shimmer of Gold; and Dr. Robert Moran’s paper on the Chemistry, Toxicity and Analysis of Mining-Related Waters, and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Toxics in Electronics)

  14. Good to have an informed opinion.

    I think it's going to be hard to convince the public, though, most of whom haven't accepted the idea that trees grown for paper are a beneficial, renewable crop.