Before departing on a recent business trip to London, I purchased an Amazon Kindle 2 (Global version) ebook reader for the trip. The trip was my shameless justification for buying. You see, I’m a hopelessly, forever-comitted reading addict. I’ve been a regular reader since my youth, and my reading habit seems to have progressed from regular to heavy in mid-life. I am literally running out of wall and bookshelf space in my office. I have perhaps a thousand books in my personal collection currently, and if I added all of the books I’ve owned over the years, that number would easily quadruple. I purchase new and used books at an alarming rate–ask my wife!
I’ve worked in the publishing industry in one capacity or another (currently as vice president of marketing at www.A-TeamGroup.com) for the past 20-odd years. Some of those years were spent at a science and technical ebook publishing company (www.Knovel.com). So it’s no surprise I’ve had my eye on electronic books, or ebooks, for some time. Years ago I dabbled with reading ebooks on my Palm Zire, and more recently with my iPod Touch, but the screen is too small and changing pages too cumbersome on either device. I’ve tried reading ebooks on the computer, but who wants to spend more time at the computer when your professional life is parked in front of one! It’s hard to balance a laptop or netbook in bed at night for reading purposes. And running a power cord into the bed is also not a bright idea. 😉
I’ve had my eye on the Amazon Kindle ebook reader for some time, but the price was too high at $359, and without seeing the screen and the E Ink technology used to display text, I wasn’t convinced I would like it. Early reviews of the Kindle were generally good, but mixed. Very recently Barnes & Noble, my favorite bookstore, started advertising their own soon-to-be-released ebook reader called the Nook, which also uses E Ink technology. I figure we’ve reached a tipping point and it’s now time to get a reader. So I started researching. The Nook will not be available widely until early 2010, not in time for my recent trip (nor in time for Christmas), which was a small consideration for me. In my research, I found that the Amazon Kindle is now second generation having corrected a lot of early design flaws. And Amazon has lowered the price of the Kindle from $359 to $259. Competition is a good thing!
Head-to-head and feature for feature the almost-here Nook is about equivalent to the Kindle 2 according to the reviews I’ve read. While toting the Nook to my local B&N for free download specials is appealing, a gut instinct said I ought to go with the Kindle, which is what I did. In the end, here’s my line of reasoning and a look at why I made the decision I made: In the early days of MP3 players, Apple came along and introduced the iPod and changed the game. Other MP3 players that were similar in features did well for a time. But ultimately, the iPod–the game changer–dominated the market and developed into the clearly superior choice and has remained so to this day. I can’t even find my early MP3 player now having owned iPods for years. In fact, we have iPods of various kinds for every member of the family (five in all).
In my humble opinion as a long-time participant in the publishing industry, we’re in the early stages of a major change away from print to electronic publishing and reading. The Amazon Kindle was the game-changing device, and now everyone, including the Nook, compares themselves to the standard set by the Kindle. The Kindle is like the early iPod. So why not buy the best, and the original, instead of a copy? That ultimately is why I chose the Kindle over the Nook. I expect Amazon to continue their innovation with both technology and business models. It is in their own best interests to do so. It is less in the interest of B&N to innovate because they have thousands of bricks and mortar locations where they like to sell books. Amazon’s DNA is online and electronic. B&N is not. Lest I get an email or comment from B&N, don’t worry, I still love you! And I’ll continue to frequent your stores. Not every book is available electronically by a long shot, so I’ll still be renewing my B&N membership and visiting to buy books. But I’ll be purchasing less and less in the bookstore as I purchase more and more on my Kindle.
So what’s next? Who knows! Apple is rumored to be launching a tablet style device that is something between a Kindle and a computer, with a full color screen (Kindle and Nook both have monochrome screens right now). And when Apple enters a space, like ebooks, you have to take it seriously. But so far it’s a rumor, and no one has any pictures of the device itself. So who knows what it’s really intended for? There are flexible display technologies coming along–screens that you can bend like a piece of heavy paper and it doesn’t break. And other very cool technologies coming down the pike in the near future. If you want to stay on top of it all, read this blog: http://ireaderreview.com. I love what this guy writes. By following that blog you’ll also be tuned in to the latest free ebooks out there that you can download to your computer, or your ebook reading device, if you read ebooks.
One thing is for sure: I won’t be using the Kindle 2 I just purchased in 3-4 years’ time–maybe sooner. Something better will come along to replace it. But I’m equally sure the vendor of that new device will be Amazon, and B&N (and maybe Borders with Sony and even Apple). So although I’ve just invested in technology that will be obsoleted in a few years, I’ll save money on my books in the meantime–ebooks are typically 30-50% cheaper than hard cover copies. And I won’t need a bigger house to store my books!
Now, back to Clive Cussler and his latest novel, The Wrecker, purchased for $11.98 on my Kindle, available at the local Sam’s club in hard cover for $16.67. I’ve already saved $4.69 on just one purchase!