29 November 2009

A day in the life of an ebook reader

I've just finished an ebook (purchased locally surprise surprise) of The Book Thief. What a remarkable book. Will go down as one of the best I've ever read.

I've been laughing at myself lately because I either forget to charge the Sony ereader, or I don't turn it off properly, and then of course there are the problems with the device when I use the backlight (which chews up the battery). Trust me, I made sure I kept the battery strong for this book as I didn't want to get to a critical point and have a battery warning! There's nothing worse than wanting to read and not having the battery charge to do so...

It made me think about school students. I've heard many stories about (mainly private) schools wanting to have content on ereaders for their students but being rejected by publishers who either don't have the content digitised, don't want to participate, or just don't want to provide it for other reasons (piracy? who knows...). Anyway, I don't know about you, but my experience with teenagers in particular suggests they will lose their ereader, misplace it, forget to charge it etc. I can just imagine the teacher saying everyone turn to page 10 and some people have it on large font, some on small, so the page number is irrelevant. Then hearing cries from several students "miss, my battery is dead, I can't read it". Hysterical!

Of course they could always lose the print copy but you don't have battery issues with the traditional format. You don't risk damaging the whole device if you spill liquid on it. You can take it in the bath. You can read it throughout the flight (there's no "switching off all electronic devices" for the takeoff and landing period). The beauty of an ereader is storage and taking choice with you wherever you go.

Oh and further to my previous post, I had the ereader out and about with me yesterday - in a cafe and in a hairdresser. Only men asked me whether it was a Kindle. All older men - as previously identified - and all had lots of questions about it. Most women glance at it and it really does challenge their opinions. I think there's been half for and half against todate. Most add "I really hope the printed book doesn't die though". Me too folks, me too.

11 November 2009

A Supply Chain Perspective on ebooks

For the last five years or so, I've attended the International Supply Chain Meeting at the Frankfurt Book Fair. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation from Peter Kilborn (BIC: Book Industry Communication) on "The Limits of Technology".

Here's just some of the highlights:

"E-book readers will be introduced in the UK later this year, and have already proved popular with American users. From the Barnes & Noble web site, user comments include: ‘I don’t know how I got along without it’, ‘I will never go back to paper again; the future has arrived and it’s great.’"
(The Bookseller, June 2000)

"Simon & Schuster US has unveiled its first ebooks list. It is the latest in a tide of publishers to enter the US e-book market, which is believed to be on the point of explosion"
(The Bookseller, December 2000)

Yes those dates are not a misprint. He was speaking about how slow the industry is to react and how we respond to change overall. We all know e-books are getting A LOT of coverage, but let's try and keep a few things in perspective.

Kelly Gallagher from Bowker also did an interesting presentation on e-book sales. I'm assuming his figures were for the US but in 2008 e-books accounted for 1.5% of all book sales. In the first half of 2009, this went up to 2.2%. Another interesting stat was that for buyers over 50 years of age, e-books are growing at 183%. Sony e-book readers have an average age of 49.8, Kindle 48.9, PDAs 28.0 and the iPhone 37.9. Device presentation was also interesting - 40% were pure downloads to computer. 26.8% were via the Kindle, 13% from iPhone, 6.4% from the Sony e-reader. So beyond computer downloads, Kindle has the market share.

Thought the feedback from the meeting would enhance this blog and will continue to monitor industry alerts for interesting stats and quotes about this growing - and fascinating - market segment.

02 November 2009

Roadtesting the Sony ereader

As many of you know, I took the Sony ereader to Frankfurt this year for the Book Fair. It was an interesting experiment, particularly as it was the longest trip to date and I must admit I was a little anxious as I love to read on longer flights and train rides. My luggage to previous international Book Fairs has included at least 3 books and I must admit, I did take a paperback as insurance!

The Sony ereader was fully charged when I left Sydney airport and there were 45 ebooks on the device including the new one from Audrey Niffenegger, Her Fearful Symmetry. I purposely didn't take the charger on board and regretted this half way when the battery started dying in Singapore! As I've flagged previously on this blog, when the back light is used on the Sony, the battery dies quickly. Knowing this flaw, I use it sparingly but needed to because the light in the business lounge at Singapore airport was not good. I continued reading while I waited for my connecting flight and realised the battery was depleting right in front of my eyes! I wasn't happy about it and ended up putting the reader away.

It might interest you to know that most of the marketing material previously stated the battery lasted around 7000 page turns. If that's the case, I should be getting through 4-5 ebooks with no problem. This is not happening and I must admit, it cheeses me off somewhat.

Apart from the battery, the other problem was not being able to use an electronic device for take off and landing. Of course, on an international flight that can mean the last 30 minutes is without reading material. I was grateful for the paperback I threw into my handbag at the last minute, even if it meant my reading was somewhat interrupted.

Oh and I may have flagged this previously when discussing pros and cons of ereaders, but I enjoy soaking in a tub at the end of a long day and getting stuck into a good book while I bathe. Not having a bath at home, I always look forward to one when I travel. I managed to enjoy the experience only once during the whole Book Fair - on my last night. Of course, it's not wise to take the ereader in the bath (!) and again glad to have the paperback on hand.

But back to the story: The reader charged without difficulty once in Frankfurt, and again when I travelled to Regensburg for some personal time. The time off was particularly interesting as I had to field multiple questions about the ereader, all from German locals. Whether it was someone politely interrupting me on the train "Was IST das?!" to people in cafes or restaurants wanting to know more about it, I was fielding questions left, right and centre. Most of the time I handed over the device and let people use the touchscreen to navigate. It was met with a lot of approval, a lot of nods, a lot of sighs, and A LOT of interest overall.

The demographic was interesting - all enquiries were from men! Several were older, one I would hazard a guess would have been retired, and only a couple were from late teens to university students. I've been talking ebooks for years professionally (mainly for libraries) and having to do show and tell at a more personal level has been a lot of fun too.

On the way home, the ereader was fully charged yet again and I did NOT use the backlight at any stage of the journey. The trip home was longer as I had a 4 hour layover in Singapore. By the time we were preparing to land in Sydney, I had one battery cell left on the ereader. I had read two new books, re-read/scanned through another four, and answered about a dozen questions on the ereader from the general (German) public.