The e-reader industry is abuzz with activity. New e-readers are getting launched almost every other day. The existing ones are being upgraded while new technology is being introduced. Every other company is exploring tie-ups with other manufacturer, e-book seller, and publisher or technology partner, all with the aim of garnering a bigger share of the fast expanding e-reader market. It seems e-reader news is getting updated almost every minute.
For instance, Sony is now supporting the open ePub e-book format. They are also in the process of developing a new e-reader that will have cellular data connectivity. Barnes and Noble too has announced that they are developing a new device in collaboration with Irex technologies. And if these are not enough, mighty Apple has come up with the iPad which many believe will be the cat among the e-reader pigeons. In fact, such news snippets would go on and on.
However with all the new promises, it is the software side of the story that is grossly missing. And it is on this front where the battle of e-books and e-readers is going to be fought and won.
The e-reader market is witnessing, in recent times, a rise in quality and decrease in prices. Display is getting amazingly close to that of printed paper. Battery life too is approaching reasonable expectations.
But the real reason for e-readers becoming so advanced is the growth of the software side of these products. That is because one needs a great software and hardware combination for an e-reader to really become popular. The web stores have a huge role to play in this as well as these serve as the point from where users can do a search, get the book, and have them downloaded into the e-reader in no time. For instance the Amazon Kindle’s storefront that is by far the best in the industry. They know what their readers are looking for. So users can search for an e-book on the web store and purchase it within just 35 seconds. Users will have to spare another 35 seconds to have the e-book delivered in their devices and start reading with them. Let anyone come with anything that is better than this.
Next is the web store by Sony. Both the stores allow you to search by price but since Amazon also provides a huge list of free e-books, often it takes time to look for a title. Sony does a better categorization of its books, but sadly, one needs to download e-books only through its desktop client. B&N.com is nothing but miserable.
But perhaps an ideal e-reader would be one that uses the Kindle kind of application on an iPhone or iPod touch phone. This way you would not need to carry another device with you. It will be a one-stop shop for your phone and reader applications. In such a scenario, the kindle reader will be light and wont drain out your iPhone battery. However, this wont fit the bill for a graphics rich textbook. The rich text wont be clear and its best to go for an e-reader then.
If you have an iPhone and are interested in e-reading, it’s a simple task downloading the application and browsing the Amazon’s web store from where you can source tons of free e-books. So in case you don’t have an iPhone, then its only economical to purchase an iPod touch and use it for reading e-books. The cost is same as the Kindle hardware device. The downside is that you will need to be in WiFi range to download your e-books while on the iPhone, you can download over the cellular network, much like the Kindle hardware.
There are other readers available for phones. If you have a blackberry or a palm, then the B&N reader application or the Mobipocket fits the bill. However, both of them are not as easy as the Kindle and would need you to download the e-book on the desktop first. The B&N app is particularly cumbersome and it seems you have to contend with too many moving parts at a time.
Sony e-readers have been made compatible with the ePub apps. The pub books can be read on iPhone as well but only with Stanza. It’s a tedious process though, which is much unlike what you experience in the Kindle.
Amazon has a good web store compared to Sony and B&N. Google too has digital version of many books but doesn’t contain many best sellers. Amazon is far better in the e-book section and underlines the fact that a good web store helps in selling more e-books.
As the e-reader market grows, e-books need to become more universal. For example Kindle should be able to read ePub formats. Another important thing is to eliminate is the digital rights management to make e-books far more accessible.
Nonetheless, nothing can replace the experience of a physical book store and book reading but as this market grows, it will definitely make e-book reading something to experience.
Be at our Good E-Reader Blog for more updated e-reader news.
E-Readers are also dealt with extensively in our Good E-Reader Forum and its definitely worth a visit. We are releasing the Good E-Reader Magazine next month and could use your support. Visit our magazine link to see what stories we are going to cover and how you can subscribe (The Good E-Reader Magazine)