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E-books: Are They Worth Buying?

posted February 18, 2010

Posted by Anne Healey in E-books


 Kindle for iPhone screenshot   Kindle for iPhone screenshot

Over the past six months or so, I’ve read a number of e-books on my iPod Touch, trying out Stanza, Kindle for iPhone, and eReader. At this point the various annoyances (text that’s laid out with big distracting spaces between words, typos, boring covers, wading through the copyright info—and sometimes the “about the author” cover text—to get to the first pages of the book itself) are starting to outweigh the convenience of acquiring a new book immediately, portability, and reading in the dark. And the novelty of playing with a new toy has worn off for me.

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My Eyes versus the Apple Tablet and Microsoft’s Courier

posted October 8, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in E-books technology trends

Like many people, I do a lot of reading on my computer these days, and I blame that for my eyes getting worse. Eyes weren’t designed for staring at a bright, backlit screen, and I’m relieved at night to read a novel in paper. That’s why I’m interested in the Kindle, the Sony Reader, the Bebook, and other electronic readers that use a nonilluminated paperlike surface (they also have a battery life of weeks and can be read outdoors).

Still, there is so much talk today of the upcoming Apple Tablet, which, according to rumors, is an oversized Ipod Touch that could be used for many things, including ebooks. Compared with the Kindle, it will be beautiful, seducing buyers with its bright, colorful, illuminated screen.


Apple tablet

Image by Fire_Eyes via Flickr


Unfortunately I’ve talked to my eyes about it, and they have given me a firm response: no, not in this lifetime, not if I don’t want to go blind.

I thought this was the end of the subject, but then I saw this video on Gizmodo of Microsoft’s rumored Courier, a two-paneled tablet that looks like a true electronic book of the future. It looks a little like the upcoming two-paneled Ausus backlit reader but is much more sophisticated.



No one knows for sure if Microsoft is coming out with this product and whether it will read ebooks, but if it did, I would have a hard time resisting the urge to buy one.

If I could get something like this in the nonilluminating E-ink of the Kindle and Sony Reader, I would be totally sold on ebooks.

An eBook Reality Check

posted September 3, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in E-books books publishing technology trends

So much talk these days about ebooks. So much speculation, in both despair and excitement. Do we need a reality check?

Here are a few facts to keep in mind.

According to Bowker, in 2008 ebooks represented only 0.6 percent of all books sold in the United States. The majority of buyers were men, and more than half were between the ages of 18 and 34. This year ebook sales will still be less than 2 percent of the U.S. book market.

Here’s something else to ponder.

Most people prefer paper. According to a recent survey, only 37 percent of Americans are interested in buying an ereader. Here in France I’m often at the beach and see one person after another stetched out in the sun reading a paperback. Not an ereader in sight.

Yes, ebooks are likely a big part of publishing’s future, but for now dead-tree books, as some people disparagingly call them, are how almost everyone reads novels, biographies, cookbooks, self-help books, and titles in every other publishing category, and that’s not going to change overnight. For many people the battle between Amazon and Sony (and other smaller manufacturers) is taking place on some sparsely populated island of technogeeks.

Not to be insulting. I’m about to buy an ereader myself, and I’ve already picked out the first book I want to read on it (L’élégance du hérisson by Muriel Barbery, published by Les Editions Gallimard; in the United States The Elegance of a Hedgehog published by Europe Editions). But when I think of ebooks, I’m often reminded of this video, the funniest in my opinion of the mock battles produced by Green Apple Books.

Baudelaire on Windows Mobile

posted June 18, 2009

Posted by Thomas Riggs in books technology

Not everyone has an IPhone. It’s not even the best-selling smartphone brand (worldwide market shares are Nokia, 41 percent; Blackberry, 20 percent; Apple, 11 percent). So when the news arrived that IPhone owners could download Kindle books from, many people were left out.

Fortunately, until Kindle apps appear for other smartphones, there are good alternatives. Among the best are Mobipocket, a French company bought by Amazon in 2005, and eReader, owned by Barnes & Noble. Both have apps available for most smartphones, including my own, the Samsung Omnia, run on Windows Mobile.


I’ve been surprised by how pleasant and useful it is to read on a cell phone, despite the three-inch screen. Reading on my phone has been a slippery slope. It started with text messages, then e-mail, then the newspaper. When I signed up with Mobipocket, I decided I would start with a book of poems—short things to read when I was stuck somewhere and had nothing to do. With Mobipocket I was able to connect to the site and buy a book directly from my phone.

I love paper books, so in evaluating Mobipocket and eReader, the real test was whether I would use them. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. One evening at the grocery store, I found myself in the longest line of my life. I was stuck near the cosmetics and couldn’t even see the cashiers. As people grumbled around me, I decided this was the moment. I pulled out my phone. I opened up Les Fleurs du Mal. By the time I got a glimpse of the cash register, I had already read three curious, ecstatic poems by Baudelaire.