eReader Musings

I've been watching the next gen ereaders for a while, I like reading and I read a lot sometimes a book a day. I've never been that interested in eBooks partly due to the fact that I quite like dead tree books they never need charging and the display dots per inch is pretty good random access and the ability to display full colour pictures and even animation (flick books).

However as moving 6000 miles from home and having to get rid of most of my accumulated stacks of books has shown me they do take up a lot of space and are difficult to transport in any significant volume. Being able to take a library of stuff with me on a small electronic device (or even access said library remotely via the web) seems a good solution.

Out here in the US there are basically 3 main contenders for the eReader crown. The amazon Kindle, the Barnes and Noble Nook, and the Apple IPad. IPad is a realtively recent entry and somewhat less specialist than the others but it is positioning itself into this market with the IBooks feature.

Kindle and nook are the more seasoned veterans of the race and also dedicated devices they don't really do anything else. There is also currently a pricewar between the two with Kindle now at 189 bucks and Nook at 149 for wifi only or 199 for 3G.

The IPad for all it's flexibility is currently very expensive for a 3g model and you have to pay for the 3g on it, it just doesn't make sense. A lot of people have said the dedicated eReader market will eventually be subsumed into the IPad a like arena as more and more people try to cash in on the market. We shall see but for now the IPad is too damn expensive for my liking.

I like amazon as a store they have almost everything you could want and they deliver quickly this would seem to put me more in the Kindle camp. However I've been looking over the books for kindle and plenty of titles that I though looked interesting weren't available for it where as they were on the Nook which is a bit of a shame. Also the kindle's format is less open than the others used (although all of them deploy DRM of some fashion it's just easier to remove on the open format). Nook also offers things like the ability to lend books for a period and free hour's worth of browsing any book in the Barnes and Nobel Store which is nice. One of the things I like to do is browse the books in a store just look at titles of covers that look interesting pick out new authors or old ones that I've not looked at in a while it's something I would often do when away on business since books don't require any of the other paraphernalia that games or dvd do, though the nearest B&N is not that close to where I am so how often I would be able to make use of this feature is questionable.

Both the kindle and the nook use 3g to get their books, there is no fee for this it's free. The Kindle offers world wide 3g where as the nook is US only. This is an interesting feature seeing as I may well be back in the UK at some point. However the Nook has the option of Wifi which would probably be just as accessible as 3g in most places you would want it.

Design wise the Kindle looks like something out of the 1970's all buttons all over the thing plastic casing black and white screen (admittedly very nice eInk screen but it looks old), the Nook has a cleaner look with its touch screen controls which also adds a splash of colour at the expense of less battery life.

I think the current clincher in a very close race between the two devices is the extent of their libraries. When searching for books I could find almost everything I wanted on the Nook where as kindle had loads of stuff that just wasn't available. I found one reverse case (the book Pete recommended) but it was very much a winner for the Nook. The other thing is I know the format of the Nook books is open that means when the Nook is a thing reserved for a museum there is a good chance there will be someone somewhere that's written a converter to what ever holographic space tablet is the new wonder device.


picked up a nook on friday so far it's pretty awesome, the instant gratification aspect is pretty good just search for a book and have it ready to read in seconds. You can even do the browse covers thing thanks to the little colour screen. The interface takes some getting used to but you get there in the end. Will have to see how it goes long term.

Evilmatt's picture

Cool! I don't really read books. If I did, I'd prolly go the same way.

brainwipe's picture

Amazon in the UK have started a drive to get the Kindle out... I'm sort of tempted as I'm rapidly running out of space on my bookshelves for new volumes (moreso since Gill moved in and stole much of the spare space I had left).

My main reservations at the moment revolve around the store...the digital prices are typically about 80-85% those of physical copies, and a quick search shows many books I have on my "to read" list are not currently available via Kindle format (apparently Amazon have been playing hardball with some publishers, and alienated them). When you add on the cost of the hardware (£150 for the higer spec version) you would need to purchase about 200 books to actually see a saving. That equates to about 5 years of reading for me at current rates! In 5 years time you can be assured that new hardware/formats will be the norm, and the battery in the Kindle will have worn out.

It all smacks very much of the music wars a few years ago...proprietory formats and daft costing models abound. Amazon are obviously trying to grab a stranglehold on the market, however they have pissed various publishers off, and so you currenly have a split marketplace, which does consumers no favours whatsoever...

I guess I'll have to wait a while...

babychaos's picture

I'd wait too, mate. As for your book collection, perhaps there might be an alternative for storage?

brainwipe's picture

I keep meaning to go through my current collection and skim out the ones that are less lightly to be re-read, then box them up and move them to the loft. That does, however, require a full cataloguing of the collection, which is a right royal PITA.

There are very, very few books I would get rid of entirely. I quite often get urges to go back and re-read some books, and I have only a very small minority of books I would consider "crap" (The final Dune books...I'm looking at you...).

babychaos's picture

I basically had to throw away/donate to charity most of my books when I moved out to the US my parents lacked the room for them so now moving to non physical books I can download to any device with the reader software is attractive. The other thing I've found is that they offer a lot of free books on this device.

I don't know if Kindle does the same but the nook has free fridays where they give away a book of random type most of which have been quite good (typically it's the first in a series that's just got a new book or some such to encourage you to buy the next/rest but still it's free books every week sometimes more if there is a promo on). The ability to get free sample of any of the books on sale is good if I'm a bit unsure about a purchase I can have a read of it first then from the same device hit buy and it'll download the rest of it.

I do have concerns about the long term viability of this sort of thing and what might happen if they change formats will my library of digital books suddenly disapear. I basically see the eReader as a transition device things like tablets with full colour epaper displays will likely replace it at some stage and so far the kindle and the nook application have been ported to every platform under the sun so I would expect an upgrade path like that. And once you have something like the ipad (with a proper display and some sort of decent operating system) it can run all the various apps and probably move the retailer away from their locked in formats.

Evilmatt's picture

For me it's akin to when I cleared out all my VHS tapes and music cassettes and swapped over to DVD's and CD's respectively...I did a full catalogue of what I had, then worked out what I still wanted, and spent a few months hunting down the digital formats in various sales.

I suppose with something like Kindle there is less of a requirement to back-fill your catalogue in the same way as music/DVDs, as if you want to read a book it's a small matter to purchase and download it with the network capability (though I'd still need some kind of catalogue of "books I've read", as I have before now managed to duplicate purchases when I have a long to-read list).

I had a look at a Sony eReader last night, however the book pricing for that is awful (checked via Waterstones). Using Iain M Banks as a test subject, his back catalogue was on sale for an average book price of £8.50 each, compared to £4.75 average for Kindle. For physical copies prices were roughly £7 from Waterstones, and £5.25 from Amazon. It looks like if I were to go digital, then Kindle would be the only realistic option in the UK. I can't see any sales they do currently, though they have no competition, which probably explains that!

This would mean that a back catalogue of my current library in digital format would be in the £2,000 region

babychaos's picture

Yeah the main alternative to the kindle over here is the Barnes and Nobel Nook and B&N have no uk presence that I'm aware of. Kindle and nook are currently engaging in a price fight with the newer versions of kindle coming in slightly cheaper.

There are some levels of automation for these devices with the nook it has a eWish list (I would imagine kindle has an equivalent) so you can roam around their site stacking up books you want to get at somepoint then go to the list on the device when you are out and about and download the next item.)

Conversion between devices and into open formats is possible though like most such techniques it is tricky and comes with a list of gotchas a mile long and many "may be illegal in your territory" statements. And periodically the DRM people lock up what ever hole it was the process was sneaking through. I tried this with a book I couldn't get via B&N in nook form and the process while it took some working to figure out was successful.

Evilmatt's picture

I had a chance to see the new kindle that they've just rolled out. Design wise it still looks like something right out of the 70's with buttons all over the shop though they now do it in graphite colour which dulls that a bit. It's also now very slim which is nice of the order of something like 5mm.

Evilmatt's picture

I had a look at the Sony touchscreen eReader in Waterstones...fairly nice, though the cost of the books is prohibitive. It also seemed very slow to start up (though this may be because the battery was nearly dead).

I'll definitely be going to e-Reader route at some point, however I think the market needs to get a bit more competitive first in the it stands it's the Kindle or nothing, and Amazons pricing scheme reflects that...

babychaos's picture


I would suspect the next gen of tablets that replace the Ipad will likely kill off the eReader market

I just don't see long term there being a market for another device like that when it can easilly be intergrated. You can already run the nook and the kindle app on the IPad but currently that thing is way too expensive for what it is to replace the nook/kindle hardware.

As things like full colour epaper displays start to get adopted (and some of the new ones are fast enough to do video) I can't see dedicated eReaders remaining. If a tablet can have the same battery life and a lot more functionality for only a moderate increase in cost the numbers won't add up.

Evilmatt's picture