Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ebooks (vol. 4): Epilogue

Time to round off this series. I've outlined what the technology is, listed the various types of digital readers available, and pointed to places online where you can download ebooks. So what's left?

My own opinion, of course.

The Amazon Kindle is, right now, the undisputed king of the digital jungle. It wasn't the first, but like the iPod it simplified the process. Amazon linking their device to their own online bookstore, and plastering KindleKindleKindle all over their front page, was pure marketing genius.


The original Kindle was as ugly as an 8-track tape. All things being equal otherwise, with the other options available to me there was just no way I could walk around with that monstrosity and admit I paid nearly $400 for it in 2008. It looked like a plastic toy from 1988.

The K2 is sleeker by far, and a bit more modern in styling. But it still doesn't match the overall heft and design of the Sony digital readers. This is a device I'll be carrying around in public a lot - and I do get asked questions about it, constantly. I want a certain wow factor because of how it looks, not just for what it is. The Kindle is more recognizable, certainly - that doesn't make it a better design.

But what about functionality, you cry. It's hard to ignore the wireless network provided on the Kindle; being able to download a new book, on the fly...that's a pretty damned nice feature.

And I wholeheartedly agree. But is it really all that necessary? How often am I outside in a park, and suddenly thinking...I HAVE to get a copy of this book, right now! In a coffee shop reading, and suddenly have an overwhelming urge to download some new titles?

The wireless feature is handy for people who...well, who aren't computer jockeys. They don't spend much time at all on their computers, maybe they're constantly on the go, and need a feature like that.

Provided, of course, they're not travelling outside of the continental U.S. Because the network doesn't work outside of the States. Nor can you buy Kindles outside of the United States, or use a non-U.S. credit card to buy books for it...

My Sony Reader plugs in, downloads any books I have queued to sync, and I'm ready to go. Often I'll browse the Sony ebookstore on my lunch hour online, looking for books I'd like; I'll add most to a wishlist for later, and actually purchase a few for downloading. I can either do it right then, or wait until I get home - where the ebook will be downloaded onto my PC, where I can ALSO read it if I so choose (the Kindle - can't do this).

That wireless browsing also significantly cuts into your battery life.

So you really have to ask yourself whether you need to pay an extra $100 for wireless access to an electronic bookstore from your device.

I'm also not a fan of Amazon's proprietary format model. You're pretty much limited to direct-download two formats, both of which Amazon owns. You can use their email service to send and convert documents in a few other formats, but the device itself isn't designed to handle those formats.

By contrast - and to me, in a very surprising move - Sony has a much more open-ended format model. They do of course have their own proprietary .lrf format, but their device can also view documents in .txt, .rtf, .pdf, and more importantly - .epub.

Why is the latter so important? Because .epub is the format the publishing world as a whole is adopting as their standard. In the near future, this is the format you'll see more ebooks being available as...and if your device can't read it, you'll be behind the curve.

The only other device on the market that even remotely interests me is the iLiad reader. It has a design reminiscent of the Sony, and that Wacom touch screen makes me want to drool. Unfortunately it doesn't support as many formats, and I can't bring myself to buy tech that I can't physically hold in my hands and test before purchasing. I wouldn't be able to tell you where you could buy an iLiad, except for getting one online - which is a flaw, in my eyes, of the Kindle as well. The Sony is available in the Sony Style stores as well as Borders Bookstores, J&R Music here in NY, WalMart, B&H's accessible.

So there it is. Good luck, I hope this was all helpful.

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1 comment:

Cazmia said...

I don't appreciate you trashing the 8-track tape. I heard ABBA for the first time on an 8-track machine and it rocked. lol

Peace, love and tranqulity,