E-readers: adapting to niches

There has been so much reported in newspapers, blogs et al. about the e-reader, which has finally hit the UK in a form that people feel they could actually use (only 2 sold on the first day according to the Guardian, 50 in the first day according to the Bookseller, and " a six-figure number" bought or on order by day 1 according to the Digitalist – Waterstones has an exclusive on the Sony e-reader for a short time). I'm not going to summarize all the articles I have seen, skimmed or read here, because I am sure plenty of other blogs will be doing the same, much better than I could. But I would like to share a couple of perspectives that seemed to me a bit more interesting than the standard "love it/hate it" response.

Janet Reid writes "what is the most oft-repeated phrase among people urging someone else to read something, be they agent, editor, telephone order taker, bookstore handseller, or your mom? 'Just read the first chapter and you'll see'. " The ability to download just one chapter of a book that you would not want to read, but need to have to deal with a question of some kind, is a decided benefit of Kindle (which Amazon has set up to allow free downloads of sample content), as she describes.

And Laura Benedict, in a comment to that post, writes: "My husband imports his students' manuscripts and comments on them from the Kindle–he also was able to read my WIP in a book-like format. So much more convenient than a bulky ream of paper."

Annie Mole of London Underground blog went to an event on "The Future of the Book": "When I saw the newer Sony Ebook reader for the first time last week…. I had that sort of shuddery instant recoil response as to me it just didn't look or feel like a book. Yet the guys with me had a major "nerdgasm" over it. There was a similar response last night. People could see the potential and loved that you could carry 100 books around at once and it's handy for London Underground commutes or holiday travel." Author Kate Pullinger's reaction: "it was cold looking with no colour. In spite of the moleskin cover it didn't feel like a book to her".

Another view is that of Diane Shipley on the Picador blog: "Five years ago, we were all sceptical about the idea of swapping an entire CD collection for one tiny gadget, but now MP3 players are commonplace. IPods began as luxury items that only a few people could afford, but quickly progressed to become more affordable and to offer better functionality. There's no reason to suppose that e-readers won't do the same. There are even rumours that Amazon might launch the Kindle in the UK next year. The Kindle is even more exciting that the Sony Reader, as it offers the ability to wirelessly download a book from Amazon's website in seconds, as well as the chance to download popular blogs and news websites." John Self, in the comments to that blog post, disagrees: "This is not an iPod equivalent. When I bought my iPod, if I had 200 albums on CD, I could immediately (or after a few days of importing them to iTunes) have 200 albums on my iPod. The equivalent does not apply to books. None of the paper books I have on my shelves can be transferred to the Sony Reader – if I wanted to take them on holiday with me on the Reader, I would have to buy them again."

2 thoughts on “E-readers: adapting to niches

  1. Having phoned around a few Waterstones stores this morning, trying to track down a Sony Reader that is in stock, I can report that the device is quite obviously selling well. Congratulations to The Grauniad on publishing a knee-jerk report on sales after 1 hour of trading – upholding the traditions of the Great British Press.

  2. Agreed, James – by all and every account, it is going like the proverbial hot cakes. Let me know when you track one down and I will come and take a peek! I’m very curious.

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