Ebook Readers: Why Do They Always Fail?

Posted:
in AppleOutsider edited January 2014
A colleague and I are working on a project that involves buying a bunch of Kindles and using them in classes, and we've been discussing the various advantages and shortcomings of them?and of ebook readers in general.



I'm curious: why have ebook readers always failed?



Secondary to this question is this: do people read novels online? Other forms of writing have made the transition to digital nicely...newspapers get read online by millions. Essays made their way across via blogs. Why, then, have novels?and other long-form prose forms?not been able to make the transition from analog to digital?



With the Kindle, Amazon seems to be approaching the ebook reader sort of like an iPod?it's a gadget to hold your stuff. Is this an accurate analogy? Should an ebook reader be something else?



What would your ideal ebook reader look like? If anything? Certainly, annotation features would be crucial. The Kindle's online capabilities seem to be significant, too. Is there something about the form, as well? The bifurcated structure of the book form? The physicality of flipping the page?



Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 49
    giantgiant Posts: 6,041member
    IMO: Book people are still luddites and/or into the whole book thing for the novelty of it. Ebook readers are expensive for a lot of book people. Ebook readers are still harder to use and far more intimidating than printed material, which is completely backwards. Ebook readers are harder to carry around than a magazine, small paperback or newspaper. Ebook readers are cold and electronic and have buttons. Ebook readers are targeted at book readers (and poorly targeted, at that) rather than all people who read.



    What would my idea book reader look like? Smallish, thin (preferably flexible) touch screen, no bezel or buttons, wifi with ability to save web pages and pdfs with one tap at most. It should be as easy to look at and start reading as a book. Finding and displaying documents should be easier than any existing method.
  • Reply 2 of 49
    iposteriposter Posts: 1,560member
    Personally, I find that if I have to read more than a handful of completely text pages online, my eyes start to get fatigued much more quickly than reading printed text, even with a high quality (iMac) LCD. Books are not limited by battery life, or washed out by sunlight either. It's also less likely that you'll have your paperback nicked on the train/bus/at uni than a pricey e-book reader.



    I've never used an e-book, so I can't comment on their actual display quality, etc.



    Another factor may be that many 'book readers' as you call them, enjoy collecting all of the books in a series or by a certain author. Only having a still risky (no backup system is perfect, I've had RAID 1 arrays fail on me with complete loss of data twice) digital copy doesn't give the tangible satisfaction of being able to show your friends your book collection, or even to lend them a book, or to hand them down to your family.



    Just my .02 USD.
  • Reply 3 of 49
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by midwinter View Post


    A colleague and I are working on a project that involves buying a bunch of Kindles



    You're going in the wrong direction right there. You must have done more research than that. But stay away from the Kindle, it is an overpriced DRM lock-in to Amazon piece of crap.





    Check out
    (Video review) the Sony PRS-500 Reader (Wikipedia). I am going to get one soon myself (Borders has been selling them like crazy) Suits my needs and maybe yours.



    My .02 cents.
  • Reply 4 of 49
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by @_@ Artman View Post


    You're going in the wrong direction right there. You must have done more research than that. But stay away from the Kindle, it is an overpriced DRM lock-in to Amazon piece of crap.





    Check out
    (Video review) the Sony PRS-500 Reader (Wikipedia). I am going to get one soon myself (Borders has been selling them like crazy) Suits my needs and maybe yours.



    My .02 cents.



    Um. Awesome? Thanks for contributing to the discussion.
  • Reply 5 of 49
    dave k.dave k. Posts: 1,306member
    Why aren't more eBooks popular? Six reasons.



    1. Hardware is simply too expensive. Until eBook readers hit that magically $99 price point, they will always be considered high-priced toys.



    2. People like to share a good novel. This is either impossible or very ackward at best with either Kindle or Sony's product.



    3. eBooks are just as expensive as the paper copy. I can't imagine why this is (besides greed).



    4. Books are more like video not music. I am perfectly okay with either watching a movie once or reading a book once. This isn't true for music. Having a device that holds all of my books does seem useful to many.



    5. The ePaper technology is too primitive for the average consumer who look at a black and white and say "I'll wait for the colored screen version."



    6. eBook devices are not fashionable or status symbols (books are nerdy). People want to use their high-price gadgets to make themselves look good.



    If Amazon or Sony actually improves on these things, then the popularity of eBook devices will grow.



    Dave
  • Reply 6 of 49
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by midwinter View Post


    Um. Awesome? Thanks for contributing to the discussion.



    I'll expand...it's one of the lowest priced, DRM free readers out there. It's lightweight and has an easy to read interface. It can also play DRM free MP3s (think audio books or instructional courses). Only caveat with it is that it is not compatible with OS X (but the Wiki link I provided has workarounds and free software links to fix that).



    I love the tangible feeling of a book and will always cherish many books I have. But as far as books that I buy for reading on my commute or carry with me (mainly used trade/mass market paperbacks) it can be cumbersome. Though the chances are that an out of print book may not be available, there are many places to find classics and hard to find books in ebook (PDF) format*. This reader handles other formats (BBeB Book (LRF), TXT, RTF.) well too. Depends on the font size.



    * Some eBook links:



    http://manybooks.net/



    http://www.baen.com/library/



    http://www.fullbooks.com/



    http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page



    http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Books#Fiction



    I'm not trying to convince you, just providing my personal choice. Oh, and your welcome?
  • Reply 7 of 49
    As iPoster said, eye fatigue.

    Even the most expensive displays can't come close to the contrast ratio of ink on paper. Reading from a screen is more tiring and much slower than a book.



    Convenience. A screen big enough to display a reasonable amount of text at a time has to be much larger than an iPod/iPhone size device... so it's no more compact (and perhaps LESS so) than an actual book. And unlike music, you rarely need to carry more than one or two books with you at a time.



    A real paper book doesn't need to worry about battery life. So you're on an airplane (or bus, train, taxi...) and the battery of your kindle reaches it's limit just as you get to a climactic point in the story and while there's still 30 minutes of time to kill... now THAT might be a bit frustrating. (or the "please turn off all electronic devices for takeoff and landing" schtick... what a joke.)



    High tech is good/fun and all, but sometime older technology is still better for certain things than the current state of "high" technology. And books are a perfect example of that.
  • Reply 8 of 49
    Dave K. is the only one who has got it all.



    E-ink is basically paper, from a user's perspective. It's a fine medium. It just desperately needs higher resolution circuit printing technology to use for its backplane. Right now, the Sony product and the Kindle, I'm pretty sure, use expensive, bulky, and fragile TFT's as their backplanes. In a few years when the newer technologies are ready for primetime, I think we could even see $9.99 looseleaf sheets that can store input -- for a few pages each -- and upload & charge via RFID.
  • Reply 9 of 49
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Dave K. View Post


    Why aren't more eBooks popular? Six reasons.



    1. Hardware is simply too expensive. Until eBook readers hit that magically $99 price point, they will always be considered high-priced toys.



    Dave



    Find this funny coming from a Mac user site.
  • Reply 10 of 49
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by @_@ Artman View Post


    Find this funny coming from a Mac user site.



    Gotta remember though, that with Macs, we're paying the premium for the OS, not for the hardware.
  • Reply 11 of 49
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post


    Gotta remember though, that with Macs, we're paying the premium for the OS, not for the hardware.



    W-wwait. I always thought it was hardware. OS not withstanding, but the premium in Apple's hardware and innovations in design are what we're paying for.



    And why not with eBook readers? They are going down in price and the technology is improving. The only problem is that from generation to generation interest in reading books is dropping. So if the demand isn't there, the price drop may not happen either. I'm afraid that this will affect sales of books too. Eventually, I see publishers going toward digital for that reason (ie Amazon's Kindle flimsy take on it).



    I am seriously looking into getting one only because of my interests in certain books. Books that are impossible to find (out of print), if are found I have to pay for and have them shipped. I can find these exact same books in PDF format for free. So I'd reason that if I invest in a reader then the savings would eventually return. Within a year even, I go through a book a month and purchase 2-3 more every other week.



    So that's only me I guess...
  • Reply 12 of 49
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by @_@ Artman View Post


    I am seriously looking into getting one only because of my interests in certain books. Books that are impossible to find (out of print), if are found I have to pay for and have them shipped. I can find these exact same books in PDF format for free. So I'd reason that if I invest in a reader then the savings would eventually return. Within a year even, I go through a book a month and purchase 2-3 more every other week.



    So that's only me.



    OT: You can get that book much more cheaply at these fine vendors. But I agree with you completely; I get most of my pleasure reading from Project Gutenberg and Manybooks.
  • Reply 13 of 49
    709709 Posts: 2,016member
    The Sony looks alright, but my god...the Kindle? Surely Amazon could afford a little industrial design in their budget. The poor thing looks like a Centris someone sat on. I have a Macintosh Portable from 1989 that looks positively modern compared to the Kindle. \



    That said, I likes me the musty smell of paper.
  • Reply 14 of 49
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by midwinter View Post


    OT: You can get that book much more cheaply at these fine vendors. But I agree with you completely; I get most of my pleasure reading from Project Gutenberg and Manybooks.



    Thanks for the link. They are even beating Amazon's pricing.



    OT...and eBooks.com? Rip Off. Don't understand why digital books are priced the same as their counterparts. You're not getting a hardcover book anyway, right?



    Check Charles Stross's recent (Halting State) price with the others. I guess they are using the existing pricing structure...silly though.



    I'm not thinking of the authors, am I.
  • Reply 15 of 49
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by 709 View Post


    The Sony looks alright, but my god...the Kindle? Surely Amazon could afford a little industrial design in their budget. The poor thing looks like a Centris someone sat on. I have a Macintosh Portable from 1989 that looks positively modern compared to the Kindle. \



    That said, I likes me the musty smell of paper.



    The advantage of the Kindle for us is that we can distribute content for it via email and have it automagically update without the student having to actually *do* anything. Add to that the RSS and web features of it, and it fits nicely with what we're interested in exploring in this study.
  • Reply 16 of 49
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by @_@ Artman View Post


    W-wwait. I always thought it was hardware. OS not withstanding, but the premium in Apple's hardware and innovations in design are what we're paying for...



    OK, so Apple's harware definitely LOOKs better, but the REAL difference is the OS, so I'll concede that we pay a premium for both of those aspects...

    But... does anybody by a Mac and run ONLY Windows on it???? Then I'd say those folks are willing to pay a premium for the hardware... but if an underlying reason is that they can run OSX (either alongside XP, or perhaps in the future if they wish) then they are really paying the premium for OSX!



    And for ebooks... you're NOT the only one who still reads a lot... I read a novel a week on average, so does my wife and all my kids, well... except for the youngest...

    But I still don't think eBook readers will ever "take off" until they are just as convenient as a "real" book... the convenience of a paperback is just too hard to beat with current technology.
  • Reply 17 of 49
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post


    OK, so Apple's harware definitely LOOKs better, but the REAL difference is the OS, so I'll concede that we pay a premium for both of those aspects...

    But... does anybody by a Mac and run ONLY Windows on it???? Then I'd say those folks are willing to pay a premium for the hardware... but if an underlying reason is that they can run OSX (either alongside XP, or perhaps in the future if they wish) then they are really paying the premium for OSX!



    Ok, ok. But Apple's hardware is far superior to the DIY or other cheapo Windows boxes and laptops out there.



    Sony's reader is a hundred dollars less and has more features. Plus it is "open" to other hacks and formats. Including non-DRM. I'm getting one soon.



    Quote:

    And for ebooks... you're NOT the only one who still reads a lot... I read a novel a week on average, so does my wife and all my kids, well... except for the youngest...

    But I still don't think eBook readers will ever "take off" until they are just as convenient as a "real" book... the convenience of a paperback is just too hard to beat with current technology.



    I collect art books and photography books. Never in this century will Ebooks reach the quality of printed reproduction in that category.



    As far as your opinion to "analog" books, I did agree (love the touch, feel, smell & sharing), but I would still want an alternative to finding, much less purchasing a hard to find book that I can get online - right now - for free.
  • Reply 18 of 49
    709709 Posts: 2,016member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by midwinter View Post


    The advantage of the Kindle for us is that we can distribute content for it via email and have it automagically update without the student having to actually *do* anything. Add to that the RSS and web features of it, and it fits nicely with what we're interested in exploring in this study.



    Is this a study of eReader technology in general and/or its viability in the real world or does an eBook Reader have some advantage over a simple laptop that I'm not seeing? I'm admittedly not up on the eBook phenomenon, so I'm genuinely curious. Myself, I just can't seem to read long, continuous pieces of written word on-screen. If a pdf gets over 20 pages I'll go ahead and print it out to read it. Yes, I'm that guy.
  • Reply 19 of 49
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by 709 View Post


    Is this a study of eReader technology in general and/or its viability in the real world or does an eBook Reader have some advantage over a simple laptop that I'm not seeing? I'm admittedly not up on the eBook phenomenon, so I'm genuinely curious. Myself, I just can't seem to read long, continuous pieces of written word on-screen. If a pdf gets over 20 pages I'll go ahead and print it out to read it. Yes, I'm that guy.



    Go to a Borders bookstore (or the 2006 video review I posted above) and check out the Sony Reader. I was impressed.



    The technology is getting better. It's only asshats like Amazon who are trying to lock and restrict the device in the long run.
  • Reply 20 of 49
    709709 Posts: 2,016member
    I watched the review, but I guess I still don't get the advantage over a laptop other than size. Maybe if the eBook feature was in addition to a slew of other PDA type niceties I could appreciate it more, but as it stands I can't see carrying an additional device just to read another type of file format. I'm sure it works well for what and whom it's designed for, but obviously I'm not the target market for such a beast.



    However, I do think the screen technology is amazingly fun. It reminds me of the Magna Doodle.
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