Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Some Thoughts on E-readers and E-books

I could have written a comment on Miss Moggs's post on e-books but I decided to write a post on the subject myself. It's true she wrote a post on the topic on a previous occasion. In it she discussed the disadvantages of not actually owning the e-book such that you could lend it and even sell it secondhand. Instead you own only the right to read it and recently, in some cases lend it out one time only.

At that time I too wrote my reply as a post since I had recently become the owner of a Kindle e-reader. I talked about the history and development of the e-reader and my thoughts on the subject and wondered if I would truly become an aficionada of the e-book and stop buying and reading physical books. Of course the answer is a resounding NO to the latter. E-readers have not put much of a dint in my purchase of books nor my reading of actual books. I just seem to buy and read both now.

The Kindle

I use e-reader in the plural above for a very good reason. Yes I am the owner of more than one. Er more than two. Er more than three, if you count my mobile devices as e-readers as well, which of course they are.

When I buy an e-book from amazon.com I have the choice of reading it on my Kindle keyboard reader itself, or on my computer using Amazon's Kindle Cloud reader, or on my computer using the Kindle Application for Mac. But there are more even more options for me.

Of course I now have an iPad2 so I can read the e-book there on the Kindle application for iPad. Or on my iPod Touch. Or on my new iPhone4S which I've had for a few weeks now. What's more I can take up reading on one device exactly where I left off on the previous one, since they synchronize across all devices when connected to the internet. How brilliant is that?

Reading on the iPad2

Now the reading experience is not as great on the smaller iPod Touch or the iPhone but I certainly do read the New York Times on the iPod Touch on occasion although I mostly read it on the larger screen of the iPad2. However it's perfectly readable on the smaller device, as are books.

iPhone versus iPad2 sizewise

Of course Amazon want to lock you into buying from their store and reading on the e-reader which you purchase from them. At first they did not allow borrowing library books however that has changed recently, but only in the United States. However the iPad makes it possible to buy from any of the other e-book sellers since there is an app. for the iPad for them all, including an app. for borrowing e-books from the libraries.

Although I resisted the iPad for almost a year, finally I succumbed to that highly expensive "toy" and I have to say I love it for many reasons. But let's talk about it as an e-reader.

Using the Overdrive app. for the iPad I can borrow books from the public library for 21 days after downloading them. At the end of that period you can no longer access them, but you can return them early if you finish them before 21 days. So no library fines for returning books late!

Many Canadians seem to have Kobo e-readers and yes I buy e-books from them too and they have an app. for the Mac as well as for the various mobile devices. Barnes and Noble is a bit of an anomaly in that you can buy e-books from them from Canada and read them on the computer app. for Mac, but you cannot get their Nook app. for the iPad or iPhone in the Canadian iTunes store so that is a problem. I have contacted customer service but they seem to blame it on Apple, however you can get it from the US iTunes store so that makes no sense to me. All these apps are free by the way.

The Kobo Touch

Of course there is the celebrated Apple iBooks app. and you can purchase e-books from them but they tend to be more expensive and the selection falls far short of amazon.com which has over 1 million e-books for purchase now.

Best of all my e-readers, I love reading the books on the iPad which has a very pleasing format for all the different apps and the slightest touch to turn the pages. It's fine for reading in bed but where it falls down is carrying it around all the time with me, as it is a bit large and heavy for a handbag. So I mostly take the Kindle with me which is a good size and weight to stuff in a regular sized handbag. It requires a fairly hefty push with the thumb to turn the pages so recently when I saw a Kobo Touch at a good price I added that to my e-reader collection. Yes I do love my "toys"! It's not as easy to turn the page on the Kobo Touch as it is on the iPad but it is quite acceptable and a nice size to take along with me everywhere. Since I am usually reading more than one book at a time it doesn't matter which device I have with me.

So that's my experience with the "hardware". But Miss Moggs also discussed one of the big beefs with e-books. The PRICE! They are certainly no bargain by any means. Compared with the original price of the hardback perhaps, but we rarely need to pay full price for a hardback. In fact you can often find the hardback heavily discounted at Costco or online for a dollar or so more than the e-book.

The publishers have come to agreements with the various e-book sellers and they set the prices according to the sellers, taking 70% of the money. Consequently you would think that they would be the same price at each outlet, but not at all. So you have to check around before laying down your money for an e-book. Not only that, but I bought Jodi Picoult's new book, Lone Wolf, on the first day it was released at $14.99. From Amazon. Just a few short weeks later it is now selling for $12.99!

Kobo seems to send me a discount coupon of 20-25% for one book purchase every week so that's how I started buying from them I guess. But it is sometimes cheaper to buy the same book at regular price at amazon.com than discounted at Kobo! How crazy is that when the prices are supposed to be set by the publishers. There is no tax when I buy through Amazon but 12% tax is added to Kobo prices. Not only that but the tax rate is different on physical books and e-books where I live. For physical books you pay only 5% but for e-books it is 12%. Oh well it keeps me on my toes, but it's all a bit of a mystery. Especially the fact, as Moggs mentioned, that sometimes the paperback is cheaper than the e-book.

Of course you can fill your e-reader with free e-books, those no longer under copyright and in the public domain. Some independents give away e-books for limited times and amazon.com has the "deal of the day", usually on an older book, while Kobo seems to have regular discounts for the moment on "selected titles" but there are some good books to choose there. I am not buying from Barnes and Noble again until they get the iPad app. sorted out for Canada, if they ever do.

I will be on vacation for three weeks in April so I have been gathering a collection of e-books to take with me. It certainly is very nice to have one device loaded with reading matter rather than a suitcase full of books. Of course I can't share with the OS which is a problem. Well he can carry his own books! I asked him if he would like my iPad2 if I bought the recently released New iPad but he just laughed. Darn!

But you know it doesn't matter how you read or what you read: a book, a magazine, a newspaper, in your hand or on a device, some article on the internet. To borrow from Nike, "Just do it!"

To read is to learn, to discover the collective wisdom of those who have shared their knowledge and thoughts with others. It's all there for the taking/reading. But it's also for our entertainment, our pleasure. My daughter once said to me, "Reading is as essential to me as breathing." I could say the same thing. It must be in our genes for all four of us are voracious readers. One of my greatest gifts is my passion for reading and may it never desert me!