15 March 2010

Struggling with ebook reading

Battery life on the Sony PRS-700 – particularly when the back light is used – has been flagged as being problematic on this blog before. Together with not being able to read in the bath or reading long enough on domestic flights, it’s one of the Top 3 reasons why NOT to read an ebook. It really is one of the downsides of this whole e-reading experience.

When I think about the downsides there’s more: not being able to promote the book you are reading to strangers (I’m always fascinated with what people are reading and always check out the covers!), you can’t loan an ebook to someone the way you can a physical book (unless you loan the device with it!), and the gift book market really doesn’t offer anything to an e-book reader (here’s a beautiful photographic book on Paris that I’d love to give you to show off on your coffee table, oops, sorry, it’s in electronic form only! Still want it?). You can’t handle the content the same way and it can be pretty bland in black and white. Of course that’s going to change with the plethora of e-reading devices and tablets hitting the market, particularly the iPad, but for now your main e-readers are not offering colour and so you usually use the device to read fiction and suitable non-fiction (like biographies etc).

Of course there is another downside that ebook readers will ‘get’ straight away! I’ve mentioned it before but it’s really problematic purchasing books online – not the process, it’s the ease of which we push the “buy now” button! It’s like being let loose in a candy shop. We are conditioned these days to search and discover what we’d like to buy using the web. A little typing and a few clicks here and there. Shopping experiences vary. The content that we are offered to assist with our purchasing decision varies greatly. We can find what we want from an online vendor - if we don't it’s a couple of clicks of the mouse elsewhere. You are at a competitor in an instant.

We aren’t carrying anything heavy. We don’t have a shopping bag filled with physical books. The file is electronic. It doesn't weigh anything. It’s easy. And we click that button again and again when we find books we want to read. And then when we find them. God help us. Particularly if the magic US$9.99 price is offered. It’s only $11 Australian dollars to read this and that. Better buy now. Good price. Cheaper than physical book. Click click click and the device starts to fill.

When you work for a library supplier you pretty much see most books come through the front door. Trolleys in our Operations area are laden with books – trade books, academic, reference, commercial products and non-commercial (independent publishers, organisations and self-published authors). They move in and out of our building, day in and day out. Masses of books. You see the physical item and you think oh Wolf Hall, that’s one hell of a tome. Will take me a month to read. If you are like me, you purchase it anyway. (Yet again, that involves going into our site and clicking on the order now button – simple, effective, and what’s more the purchase comes straight out of the pay-packet….DEADLY!).

You start to collect unread books. Last count there were 30 books sitting on shelves on my floor to ceiling bookshelf at home (which is magnificent to look at by the way!). However on the e-reader (not so good to look at!) there’s something like 46 books waiting for me to read them. They aren’t in colour. They are just files.

Granted a good number of those were freely available classics from Gutenberg, but they are ones I want to read….one day. I’m starting to collect more and more books and as I’ve mentioned before it’s not like being on iTunes and downloading a song. A song is a few minutes of enjoyment. A book can be days, weeks, months. I’m beginning to struggle with time management and balancing my reading list with the time I actually have to read.

And still I can’t stop myself. My e-book newsletters and new product alerts continue to come through on a regular basis. New books in e-book format, old books now available electronically. A few clicks and that book can be on my device.

I’ve sent a help message through to Mastercard previously via this blog. But as more and more publishers get their digital strategies moving, it will only get worse.

Somebody…..help….me…..soon. I'm....DROWNING!!!!!!!

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