Ebook Obsession Becomes Dangerous, Intervention Requested

January 5th, 2006 · 3 Comments
by Booksquare

Despite our vow to stop writing about ebooks this weeks, we were sucked back in against our normally strong will. Publisher’s Weekly breathlessly reports on the unveiling of Sony’s new-to-the-U.S.-market ebook reader. Despite yesterday’s story about ebook sales increasing, PW sees the new device as a beacon of hope because

A similar device introduced into the Japanese market last year was a hit, giving Sony executives hope that despite the failure of e-books to catch on in the U.S., a better reader may encourage consumers to give e-books a second look.

Reviews of the Librie device (which was either a bit hit or not, depending on your news source — ours conflicted), made available last year to the Japanese market, were generally positive. The technology developed by E-Ink came as close as is digitally possible to analog books, creating a comfortable, energy efficient reading experience. In fact, the biggest problem with the Librie was, as noted by Boing Boing, the digital rights management (DRM) system used by Sony. It took the “friend” out of “user friendly”.

Since those reviews, Business Week notes that Sony has gotten the message. The U.S. version will allow users to access both PDF files and the proprietary Sony file system. This will be a boon for independent ebook publishers.

And rather than requiring users to transfer data onto the device with Sony’s proprietary “memory stick,” the reader also will be able to connect via a computer’s USB port and accept standard SD memory cards already found in many digital devices.

Okay, positive steps. Very positive. Sony has already entered into agreements with major publishers — it appears the price of the ebooks will rival that of mass market paperbacks (if we’re reading BW article correctly, what is being licensed are the titles already in the mass market market, not those in hardcover-only release; corrections is we’re wrong are appreciated). The device, of course, will cost a lot, several hundred dollars. This could prove to be a major barrier for readers. Sure, we want it easy and convenient — as we’ve previously discussed, the positive implications this has for college students is worth the price of admission — but an expensive device that only displays documents?

Well, naturally, we have a suggestion for Sony: multi-tasking. People love to multi-task. Make the device more flexible, usable. Maybe think Bluetooth. We hear the kids love Bluetooth. And above all, do not think proprietary. We think we’re making our meaning clear here.

Further discussion, more links, and an indication that the device plays MP3s:

File Under: The Future of Publishing

3 responses so far ↓

  • David Thayer // Jan 5, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    Your vacation left the literary world in the lurch. Glad you’re back. My take on the Sony device is this: I’m reading a Ross Thomas novel ( Batteries not included) in conventional book form. I doze off…book falls on floor.
    If I own the Sony e-book reader and read the same novel and it falls on the floor I have to call customer service and be put on hold and asked my mother’s maiden name, be cut off, redial, plug device into wall, cause power surge and my house burns down. It’s way too risky.

  • SusanGable // Jan 5, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    GGrrrrrr….they’re still not listening about the price issue, I guess. “Rival” mmpb is NOT going to cut it.

    And I do like my Treo – because it’s ONE device to do a multitude of things – including, if I chose to do so, read a book off it.

    I was at a meeting yesterday and people were impressed with my tech skills. The truth is it’s only because the little thing is so dang EASY to use. YES! Finally, someone listened, and made it EASY. Now, if only publishers would make the ebooks CHEAPER, and stick to one format that can be used on any type of reader, we just might have something here.

    I do like the fact that when reading on the Treo, the text is on a lit screen – very easy on the eyes.

    Sorry, BookSquare, I know that’s not helping you to stop blogging about ebooks. Don’t worry, soon enough something else will happen in the publishing world for us to talk about. (g)

  • Booksquare // Jan 6, 2006 at 7:29 pm

    Actually, when I said “intervention”, I meant more like, well, money or food. Both of which do not require batteries, either.