Saturday, November 28, 2009

Will eBook Readers Make Good Gifts This Season?

I've been asked a few times by friends if an eBook reader is a good idea. I was asked once specifically about the Kindle, and again about readers in general.

I read an article on Macworld's site giving 7 arguments why eBook readers aren't a good idea this "holiday season". I'll save my "holiday" rant for later. Let me redefine this: should you get somebody a Kindle or other eBook reader for Christmas? (The illogic of that whole "holiday" thing drives me nuts). 

The 7 arguments put forward in that article are:


1. We're on the brink of radical change in how people read e-books

2. E-book readers are the least discounted gadgets on the market



3. There are so many other new ways to read e-books


4. Giving an e-book readers may involve committing a person to a specific technology


5. E-book readers are old and busted


6. Everyone who really wanted one already has one



7. One of the best choices is unavailable

Mostly, the arguments rest on the assumption that Apple is working on a mythical "iTablet" that will be such an awesome eBook reader, it will render the Kindle, Nook, and that Sony thing useless overnight.

I've started and deleted several blog posts about how I'm sick of hearing about the Apple iTablet and will believe it when I see it. I stand by that.

I can personally attest to argument #6 being wrong. Everybody who wanted a Kindle DOES NOT already have one. I don't. I want a Kindle, and I don't have one yet. I guess I don't want it bad enough, but I'd still like one.

#4 is a very real concern, and it's one reason I've been slow to adopt eBooks even though I'm really excited about them. If you commit to a platform, will it last? What happens if I buy a Kindle and several Kindle books, and within a year the Kindle format is dead? I can't buy any more books, and once the platform dies out, I won't be able to read the books I bought. What if I buy a Kindle and for some reason the Barnes & Noble Nook takes off? Can you read Kindle books on a Nook, and Nook books on a Kindle? I don't have high hopes for Sony. Sorry, Sony just doesn't excite me about much. I'll believe Sony builds a successful eBook reader when they build one. I didn't like their last one. I played with it at Sam's. I found it non-intuitive and slow. I wouldn't have bought one. If you're going to buy an eBook reader for a friend or loved one, do keep in mind that you could be enslaving them to a platform with no guarantee of success.

The argument about eBook readers being "old and busted" reeks of somebody who has enough money to buy everything that comes out, use it for 2 days, and throw it away. I'm sure the rest of us without such a budget or access to review units will find that argument to be more of an elitest opinion than something to base our own buying decisions on. It's one of the reasons I despise tech journalists. They don't realize what it's like to have to work your butt off for months to save up for an iPhone. They get one handed to them and get sick of it by the time they get a Droid review unit.

I've bought some Kindle books to read on my iPhone. So far, I like it. The only advantage a physical Kindle would give me is the ability to read pdf files on the Kindle. 

So, should you buy a Kindle, Nook, or whatever Sony calls their reader? Sure. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, or a PC, you can read Kindle books without owning a Kindle. Kindle will soon be releasing readers for the Mac and BlackBerry. No Windows Mobile. Good though I jumped ship from Windows Mobile. I'd almost say for now, get an iPod Touch and download Kindle for iPhone, then buy some books.

I guess I'll have to do some reading about the Barnes & Noble Nook, because I can't comment intelligently about it right now.


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