About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

iPads for e-Inking

All kinds of nice photos and stuff I took at BEA and maybe I will have time to post more on the subject at some point.

One quick post I did want to make was about the array of eReaders that were on display at BEA. We could play with the Kobo, which is the new eReader that Borders will be selling, and the BeReader, and the Sony Reader, and at least one or two more.

The good news for Amazon is that nobody's been able to improve upon the Kindle in a total way even though all of these people have had plenty of chances to learn from the Kindle's mistakes.

The Kobo Reader is cheaper than the others, and the navigation wasn't bad, but it seemed a little slow going from one screen to another. It also felt cheap, without the same heft as the others. On balance, I do think this might be a good purchase if you want to go below the $150 price point on an eReader, but it's not a threat to the Kindle.

The Be, I didn't like that very much at all from a quick playing around with.

I finally played with the Sony Reader Daily Edition which is a slightly bigger screened reader. It had much better navigation for going from place to place in the sample May 17 Wall St. Journal which was installed on it, so that was better than the Kindle newspaper reading experience. But they still have a dreadfully unintuitive note-taking experience, and I still don't like the glare on the touch screen.

So, yeah, it's not like these are bad, but none of them are near good enough to overtake the market position that Amazon brings to the Kindle.

On the other hand, the Kindle and the Kobo and the Be and the Nook and the Sony -- they all look so 2008 to me. The e-Ink screens love bright sunshine, but anyplace else they look dingy and gray and have an overall unattractive appearance, the way all PC-based computers looked boring beige before Apple starting doing funky thinks with the Mac and Mac laptops. They all refresh pages much slower than my iPod Touch or an iPad. They all turn pages with a back button and a forward button, but for anything more complex the navigation is not intuitive or appealing or quick.

So the bad news for Amazon is that I don't think any eInk based eReader compares favorably to an iPad, other than maybe for battery life if you don't leave the wireless on your eReader. They cost less than an iPad, but that's it. The iPad isn't dedicated to doing this one thing, but as part of the many things an iPad can do, the iBooks application is fantastic. And then you can have a fantastic experience with the Marvel app, and then check your e-mail, show off your photos, so many other things. I've never been fond of having 3-in-1 office machines, but for this, I know just from playing around with it that I want to get an iPad and pay more for a machine that does many things than pay less for an eReader that does that very well. By 2008 standards.


David Alastair Hayden said...

I think 2008 is generous. They look 2004 to me. It wouldn't hurt Amazon to improve the look a bit.

The Nook looks 2005/2006, which is better but not great.

Walker said...

The problem with the iPad (though it may be more of an opportunity than a problem) is that it's resolution demonstrates how poorly put together commercial eBooks are. I refuse to purchase another fantasy eBook until the industry gets its act together.

The problem: maps. Just about any epic fantasy novel has to have a map to keep things straight. Ever eBook I have found uses very low resolution sfans of the maps. You cannot see anything; you certainly cannot read city names.

I am willing to pay as much as physical copy for any eBook (Lord knows my bookshelves could use the breathing room). But only if publishers start making them with the same quality as the physical copy.