Ebook readers – a blessing or a curse?

Following the launch of the Amazon Kindle earlier this year, Sony are following suit with the launch of the Sony Reader which will be available from Waterstones.

Borders are also getting in on the act by stocking the Iliad Reader

As an ex-techie turned writer I don’t propose to discuss the relative technical merit of each device – they use similar screen technology and each has pro’s and con’s – I suggest you keep an eye on the excellent articles in the Bookseller blog site

What is clear though is that what the iPod and MP3 players did for the music industry and CD sales, a similar scenario is likely to play out for the publishing industry – see here for some comment

& yes, Apple have entered the fray with the iPod Touch – while it doesn’t use the E-Ink, electronic paper technology, you can get your email, surf, play games and listen to music too.

While most of the readers can read unsecured formats like PDF, different vendors are coming out with proprietary formats for secured DRM material. From a customer perspective, an AAC/MP3 or VHS/Betamax scenario, is something we need like a hole in the head. Will manufacturers ever get over base level fears and greed driving strategy, I wonder. Perhaps today’s decision makers weren’t around in the 80’s to see that this doesn’t have a long term viability and a common format with a battle over device price vs features is much more healthy all round.

My thoughts are really geared towards what ebook readers will do for authors and readers (i.e. people not gadgets)

The authors’ perspective

For authors that work with me, I recommend that an ebook is one of the deliverables along the path to publication. Either a sample of the work can be tested and even sold or, for some books with multimedia content especially, the ebook can be a preferred format.

The ebook reader gives authors yet another route to market and one that potentially bypasses the publisher. With Amazon’s Digital Text Platform, you can submit your work directly.

If planned from the outset, the production of the PDF (or other format) ebook can be part of the overall process to getting in print.

For authors, the availability of a new route to [real] readers has to be a blessing and gets a Bookwright BIG TICK !!!

I for one have signed up for an Amazon DTP account and 100 Years of Ermintrude will be up there shortly, with my new novel following along (once it’s edited – see below for why)

The readers’ perspective

For me the jury is still out as to whether the experience of actually reading a book on an ereader is as good as a real book. I can’t wait to give it a go. Perhaps it will be different from a novel to a non-fiction book? It certainly will give me the opportunity to actually read all those ebooks that I have downloaded and never read.

One worry might be that the ease of ebook production and publication though might not instill the rigour that getting a book into print does in terms of editing, proof reading and pagination. This certainly happened in the music scene when all sorts of music of variable quality hit the market – in amongst it all were some gems of course.

So, should you go out and buy a reader?

Well for me, I already have such a backlog of existing conventional titles to read, I couldn’t consider it for at least 6 months anyway. In six months time, there will be more discounts at Christmas and New Year sales. You’ll also be able to pick up version 1 devices on ebay and the version 2’s hit the shops.

All that said, I’ve just got a new training course I want to take which is all in ebook format and I just wonder if I can save the cost of a reader for what it would cost in toner ink and paper to print it out ???

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Useful Links

Amazon Kindle

Amazon Digital Text Platform

Sony Reader

Iliad Reader

Mobi Reader format

Books for iPod Touch