Remember when DVDs first came out?
The problem with any new read-only entertainment technology is that there is always a chicken-and-egg situation. How many DVDs did you have before you bought your first DVD player? Or did you buy the player first and looked at it for a week before you bought any titles? I think ebook readers are a bit like this. It’s all very well being excited about a electronic gizmo, but the thing is for reading books and so when do you go on your first ebook buying spree? Before you buy the reader, or shortly after you’ve got it home and charged?
(Admittedly retailers of ebook readers have kind of recognised this problem and tend to ship them with a couple of “free” books. The ereader app on my smartphone came with Jane Eyre, The Art of War, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, A Tale Of Two Cities, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and several others. Something for everyone, or so the theory goes.)
One of the main reasons I haven’t leapt into ebook readers is that it’s difficult or expensive or both to buy some of the older titles I know I will read and re-read and would kinda like to have easily available. Classics like The HitchHiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, just to take a semi-random example that I actually went looking for.
But what I’ve discovered in the last few months is that it is new titles that are driving takeup of ebooks. Publishers are converting backlists, true, but this is a long, slow process. I originally approached ebook readers with a mentality of shifting from physical books to electronic, somewhat akin to the many people who “bought everything again” when shifting from movies on VHS to DVD. However, this is not going to be possible for a long time, perhaps never.
One of the really big advantages to the rise of ebooks is how much easier it is for writers to self-publish and to do giveaways. Ebooks traverse the Internet so much easier and cheaper than a book in the post and since I’ve started becoming involved with writers and writing groups, I’ve suddenly started acquiring ebooks. Sadly, I’m finding ebook readers on PCs are all terribly mediocre. Even some of the open-source ones. The idea of a dedicated ebook reader has therefore become attractive – even moreso since Woolworths started offering Amazon’s Kindle in-store. Someone has clearly realized that there is a substantial portion of the book-reading population that won’t buy one sight-unseen. As a result, Kindles amongst commuters are much more visible in the last month.
I nearly bought a Kindle myself, in fact. But I always knew it was going to be my second choice, because I much prefered the touch-interface on Sony’s ebook readers. I also don’t really like embracing Amazon’s platform, for much the same reason I won’t buy any Apple iDevices. However, the WiFi-only version is in short supply (it’s cheaper, you see). And Sony are between models, with the older ones impossible to find.
And then Sony quietly announced pre-orders for it’s next model, the PRS-T1. So I ordered one. It’s due to arrive on or before the 16th of October.