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Sunday, 25 July 2010

eBooks the state of play

ELECTRONIC READERS
The eBook industry is gaining momentum fast and whilst many people balk at the idea of electronic reading devices replacing their old dusty paper books, it would be foolish to now deny that eBooks are not going to change the world of book publishing on  a major scale.

Some of the benefits of eBook readers are:

  • The ability to carry a near unlimited amount of books around
  • The sharp E-Ink screen, which reads like a real book (so you don’t get eye fatigue and you can read under any environment)
  • The long battery life (most eBook readers can get over 2 weeks of use)
  • The ability to purchase books from the device (available on the Kindle, Nook, Bebook Neo for example)
  • The ability to load up any pdf, pre purchased eBook, or document into the device for reading later
  • The compact form factor
  • Prices of readers are starting to drop considerably.

THE IPAD


                                                                                                                                                                                                 
Now you won't get a bigger book lover than myself - and by books I mean the paper kind. I can spend hours browsing in book shops and if you take me near a secondhand bookshop then I'm in seventh heaven, but these days I probably buy more eBooks than I do new physical books. I still buy a lot of used books but then that's the hoarder in me. And besides the physical act of reading books there is the sensuous side of real books - the smell and the feel which is something eBook readers can never replicate. But the versatility and possibilities eBooks offer can not be ignored.

Once eBooks enter the mainstream, if they already haven't, the will allow publishers to bring back long of print books with only a fraction of the investment needed for physical books. This, in theory, should allow mid range genre fiction such as westerns, crime, thrillers, horror and adventure to be once again available in the numbers they once were. One interesting aspect of the eBook revolution is the boom in sales for erotic fiction - maybe readers who were too embarrassed to buy these lewdly covered paperbacks in the shops, enjoy the privacy of pressing the download button and seconds later the book is on their device.

And of course those who think eBooks are new are wrong - eBooks have been around for years but it is only the introduction of eReaders that has made the format truly portable. They can be read on your computer screen but you can't really relax on the beach with a laptop, with eReaders you can and they weigh nothing to carry about in a bag or pocket. It also doesn't take the destruction of trees to make an eBook and the power needed to consume them, particularly on eReaders, is minimal.

E-books have numerous benefits. Eliminating paper saves resources. E-book readers take up little room in travelers' backpacks and purses, and yet can store the equivalent of a whole bookshelf. You don't have to go anywhere to buy or borrow an e-book title. For the vision-impaired, the ability to adjust font size can mean the difference between being able to read a book and having to hope that the publisher will eventually release an audio version. Some e-book readers double as music players, and some even have a speech capability for reading books aloud.

Perhaps the only downside is that the world of eBook readers is balkanised - there are numerous formats and  some of the DRM programming used to protect against piracy is not user friendly. But most formats can be read on your computer screens, thanks to APs such as Kindle for PC or the Borders and Sony APs. Most eReaders will work with PDF files and the popular ePub format. So the chances of buying an eReader and later finding the device obsolete, such as famously happened with the Betamax video format many years ago, are virtually non existant.


So maybe it's time to take the plunge - eBooks are here to stay.

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