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Missing the Market

Sony PRS700Sony launched a new Reader last week. Sony is keeping it’s “entry-level” model, the PRS 505, and adding the up market PRS 700. The PRS505 has a 6″ eink screen and sells for $299. The PRS700 has a 6″ eink touch screen and integrated front light and sells for $399. The Kindle has a 6″ eink screen, a keyboard, and cellular access to the internet and sells for $399. The Cybook has a 6″ eink screen and sells for $369.00. IRex introduced its newest model and instead of being smaller and less expensive than its original, its larger and more expensive at 10.2″ for the screen and $799 for the price.

What’s consistent about all these eink ebook readers? The price. There is no real entry level ebook reader. The longer that I pay attention to the publishing market, the more convinced I am that cost is hugely important, particularly when you are selling a single function device. I know that e-ink readers are in their early stages but ebook readers are not. Ebook readers were first developed in 1991 when Sony introduced the Sony Data Discman. Gemstar launched its ebook reader in 2000. This has been revived as the eBookwise Reader, a grayscale LED that sells for $100-$130. Even if we were to peg the ebook readers birth with the release of the eink devices in 2006 with Sony’s first release, the PRS500, why can’t the publishing industry and the corresponding technology industry that overlaps, learn from past market penetration issues.

When Apple first introduced a single function device in 2001 called the iPod. It’s sole goal was to play digital music in a portable fashion. As the iPod has grown and evolved, there is only one single function product left in its lineup. It is the iPod Shuffle and it sells for $49. Every other portable music player in Apple’s lineup is a MULTI FUNCTION DEVICE. I had to shout that. (I feel like pulling a Biden. Let me repeat that, “every other portable music player in Apple’s line up is a multi-function device). From the Nano to the iPhone, the rest of the iPod lineup offers more than one functionality. As the bottom of the scale is the Nano and the Classic, both of which offer the ability to play videos and music, as well as store photos and games.

While all the eink readers have the ability to play music, it’s an afterthought, not an integrated part of the design. Further, because of the tiny memory footprint on these devices (all have less than 1 GB in memory), the music playing abilities do not transform the eink readers into a multi function device.

It’s not that I find it incorrect for manufacturers of ebook readers to put out single function devices. However, to put out single function devices at such as high cost when there are multi fuction devices available at a lower cost, what is the incentive for a person to purchase the single function device? Even those that love to read more than anything balk at paying plus $300 for a device that does only one thing.

While I laud Sony for taking a step forward and to offer competition for Amazon, it seems to me that it is missing a vital part of the market. It may be that the components of an eink reader are so expensive as to not permit a manufacturer from selling a truly entry level eink reader. Astak.com had been touting a sub $200 device that would have a 5″ screen, but in a relauch of its ebook reader site (hat tip to Bev QB), Astak has eliminated any reference to the 5″, sub $200 device. Instead, the consumer is told about a 6″ device which will be offered in late November 2008 and will cost $300.

I’m all for more fully featured eink readers. I love the touchscreen and I’ll love the Sony touchscreen + wi fi when it comes out. But is that really what potential ebook readers want? To gain the reluctant, but interested ebook reader, I think we need to have a sub $200 eink device. A $100 eink reader might be one of the hottest gifts of the season. A $400 one is a luxury good and with all the bankers on Wall Street losing their jobs, there just won’t be enough of those buyers to go around. In order for ebook reading to take off, it must have market penetration. why not offer up a device that is the “Must Have College Grad” gift. Because right now what college grad is going to aks for the $400 Kindle/Sony when they can get the $200 iTouch/iPhone?

If eink displays are too expensive, then maybe it’s time to consider other options. Maybe a 6″ LCD screen really won’t be that much of a bother to people’s eyes. It’s true that eink techology makes digital displays look like paper, but perhaps that is simply the wrong metric to use. With more and more people accustomed to reading on their laptops, then an LCD screen isn’t going to be foreign or even off putting to them. I don’t really know, from a technological standpoint, what the solution is. What I do know is that selling increasingly more expensive eink devices isn’t going to break open the ereader market, no matter how feature rich the device is. Either ebook readers need to go multi function or their prices have to come way down. Right now, the ebook industry is missing a major part of the market.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

53 Comments

  1. Teddypig
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 08:43:56

    Hmmm Sony PRS700 just add to this list it is THE ONLY eReader that supports Adobe PDF DRM. I’m so buying this. TOUCH SCREEN!

    * 6″ touch screen
    * 167 ppi 800×600 screen.
    * includes a stylus but fingers will work. Flick to page forward or touch to zoom page
    * 10 oz.
    * front light built in – variable
    * 5 available font sizes
    * hard buttons available for page changing. Press and hold to skip ahead. There is also a back button, main, search, zoom, and option.
    * virtual on screen keyboard
    * annotation, highlighting and search capability
    * eBook capacity: 320 in internal memory.
    * SD card slot and Sony memory stick card slot.
    * AC Power : Optional AC Charger requires 120 Volts 60Hz
    * Battery Life (Approx.) : Up to 7,500 continuous page turns (or up to two weeks worth of reading)
    * Battery Type : Rechargeable Lithium-Ion
    * Recharging Time : Approx. 4 Hours with USB charging from powered Computer or Approx. 2 Hours when using optional AC wall charger

  2. FD
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 09:03:49

    Riddle me this: Why on earth would I buy any of these dedicated devices, when for very little more, and in some cases less, I can buy a mini notebook, with the same portability, greater storage, many more functions and the capacity to read any format of ebook?

    …..

    Answer: I won’t. Fail, Sony.

  3. DS
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 09:05:39

    Kindle is $359 now. $399 is what I paid last December as an early adopter– I don’t regret it by the way.

  4. Statch
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 09:06:03

    I completely agree. I love ebooks (I have about 600 of them now). I read them on a Dell Axim PDA and an Asus mini-laptop, both of which do many other things. I won’t buy a single-function device for reading, and I definitely won’t get locked into a format that works on only one device.

    Only exception: if I could get one that was reasonable for $100 or less, and it had a very long battery life, which is the only thing that bothers me about my current devices, I’d probably be tempted.

  5. Keishon
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 09:11:54

    I’m buying it too and giving my new/old one to my mother and as I said before, wireless is not important to me. I know you saw it in action but since I didn’t, I can live without it. I would love to have the Sony Reader in red but from what I read, it is only in black.

    The Kindle designer needs to be fired. The second generation is just butt ugly. Do they not know that besides functionality, people also like an attractive looking device? Wireless is the ONLY thing they got going.

    After reading some of the comments – I know it doesn’t make sense to buy a dedicated ebook reader for the price point they are at now but for me, I just want one and love the Sony Reader I have now. Reading on my PDA had been nice but the screens on these devices are lovely as well as the EInk technology. Eventually, as time moves forward, these devices will not cost as much (hopefully) when other competitors come forth (whoever they might be).

  6. Shiloh Walker
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 09:12:18

    I agree an entry level device would make dedicated e-ink devices much more appealing.

    Riddle me this: Why on earth would I buy any of these dedicated devices, when for very little more, and in some cases less, I can buy a mini notebook, with the same portability, greater storage, many more functions and the capacity to read any format of ebook?

    FD, I bought a Sony reader because I spend so much time looking at computer screens, my eyes get tired. I have ebooks I used to read on my laptop, but up until I bought my reader, I was reading fewer and fewer. I just don’t want to sit at a PC, laptop or mini PC to read. It’s tiring on the eyes.

    The appeal of the ebook readers is going to be for those who don’t want to read on a PC screen or a PDA-type device. Plus, with a $15 1 GB SD card, I can probably store thousands of books. I’ve already got several hundred books, plus 100 pics of my kids on it.

    They won’t appeal to everybody, I know. But if they’d lower that asking price, they’d appeal to quite a few more.

  7. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 09:12:38

    I AM the market this year. I’m in the market for an e-reader. Desperately in the market. It’s all I want for Christmas because I want my e-books with me at all times. But right now, I already carry around in my purse a date book (paper), iPod, and a cell phone. And my purse is not big enough for a Kindle/Sony. I’m really leaning toward the iPhone. Why carry around ANOTHER device when the iPhone is slightly cheaper, I’m already on AT&T, and it can be my cell phone, date book, iPod, and ereader all in one, plus add GPS/map capabilities. I’m just worried about the size of the iPhone screen, TBH, and whether I can load all my PDF books onto it. But I really can’t see myself carrying around yet another device when the only thing it does is books.

  8. Keishon
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 09:18:26

    The appeal of the ebook readers is going to be for those who don't want to read on a PC screen or a PDA-type device.

    Bingo!

  9. Keishon
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 09:24:29

    I'm just worried about the size of the iPhone screen

    Since buying a Sony Reader, I haven’t been reading on my iPhone. Before I had the dedicated device, I tried to read ebooks on the iPhone. It is not ideal for reading ebooks. Put it like this, I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy an iPhone JUST to read ebooks on it. I’m not saying that’s the case for you but I have read where people mention ebook devices and the iPhone comes up. The only way I’d read on my iPhone was if my Sony Reader was dead and I’m stuck on a deserted island with no way to charge it.

  10. Jill Myles
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 10:21:03

    I totally agree. I’ve been noodling about getting an e-reader for a bit now, but I’m really reluctant to spend $300-400 on something like that. If there was a $100 one that was totally ghetto, I’d still buy it first so at least I could SEE if it worked for me. Because if I hate reading on the e-reader, then I’ve just spent $400 for a really ugly piece of junk. You know?

  11. Tina
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 10:58:46

    There’s been talk about Sony integrating ‘manga’ to digital readers in Japan [some manga is all ready sold mobile] and I’m afraid as they develop the technology to do this in the West [better screen resolution, more memory] the price will only go up. :/

    As for selling to the private sector [colleges, Uni’s, Tech-schools] this is where they can and will get away with overpricing the unit. Textbook sales are killer, if schools are able to offer a reader in conjunction with class reading material, this would certainly cut down on administrative overhead. The private sector will pay it because they can pass on the cost to students by way of tuition. :(

  12. Meljean
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 11:37:12

    I totally agree. I've been noodling about getting an e-reader for a bit now, but I'm really reluctant to spend $300-400 on something like that. If there was a $100 one that was totally ghetto, I'd still buy it first so at least I could SEE if it worked for me. Because if I hate reading on the e-reader, then I've just spent $400 for a really ugly piece of junk. You know?

    This is why, as much as I lust after the eInk tech, I’m considering just going for the eBookwise. I just want something that I can have next to my bed or take with me in the car. Paying $400 for that? Urgh.

  13. Marsha
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 11:39:20

    I’m with Jill Myles. I’m intrigued by ebooks but am also a bit of a technophobe. Things like formats and DRM and whatever else are nearly enough to make me forget the idea altogether but somehow I’m still a wee bit interested. Not interested enough, though, to fork down many hundreds of dollars on a device that may or may not end up pleasing me. Four (or three or even two) hundred dollars is too much to spend on an experiment.

    I could probably take a flier on spending $100-$125 with little regret if it didn’t work out. If I did like the experience it wouldn’t take me long to upgrade, either. I feel that the industry needs to take more of the risk on a lower priced option that might cause me to want to spend much more later. I’m unwilling to take on all the risk that the expensive choice is for me right out of the gate.

  14. Jill Myles
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 11:46:30

    Yep. My first Ipod was also a Shuffle. Now I have a fancy one, but I started out small. Ebook readers need to realize that we sometimes have to be gently led into new technology. ;)

  15. Lynne Connolly
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 11:58:56

    I’m with Statch – I read on my Asus mini laptop, and on my Ipaq. I need that backlight.

  16. Emmy
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 12:49:53

    I’m with the others. I don’t care about the $400 price tag so much as I’ll be damned if I spend that on a device that forces me to read one proprietary format and is not compatible with any others. I don’t want to buy a Kindle when I read on my phone and laptop as well, and I have yet to see a reader that is so made of teh awesome that I would use it to the exclusion of all my other devices. I *like* reading on my 17″ backlit laptop screen at home. Saves my eyes.

    My ADD won’t let me just sit and read. I stop frequently to go online, play games, chat with friends, etc. A reader that reads one format of books and does absolutely nothing else is an extravagance that I’m not willing to indulge in.

  17. Chrissy
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 12:53:07

    eee works fer me

  18. Teddypig
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 13:19:12

    Emmy,

    The SONY is probably closest to the reads a non-proprietary format. Sony opened the reader up to work with Adobe’s PDF DRM. Which works with both Mac and Windows OS. I was very happy they were the first to make the move of allowing you to buy from other sites that way.

    This is not a perfect solution but PDF is the most supported of the DRMs out there since everyone uses PDF. Software companies all have PDF manuals, a lot of business related documents are published PDF and now there is this eReader.

    That gets us a step closer than Kindle.

  19. Sami
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 14:02:39

    Right now I read on my computer and my Ipod Touch which reading books wasn’t even a factor for I just had to have one heh.

    I’m waiting for the touch screen portable tablets to arrive and get going, I believe TechCrunch is working on a open source model, and everyone is hinting that it will be the next big project for Apple.

    A fully fledged computer that’s 8 by 11 will be a dream come true. Read any format (even the dreaded DRM crippled ones), have the full options for screen lighting and color changing, good battery life, and decent storage, those will be standard. Plus throw in all the other bits like wi-fi and you’ve got the next generation of pc’s for everyone from readers to students to grandmas who want something easy to send email and view pictures on.

    That I will gladly fork over $500 for, especially if it comes from Apple, they’ve proven they know their touchpad tech and how to put everything into a little footprint.

  20. Meljean
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 14:28:32

    Yep. My first Ipod was also a Shuffle. Now I have a fancy one, but I started out small. Ebook readers need to realize that we sometimes have to be gently led into new technology. ;)

    Yep. If I get a cheap ebook reader and discover that I love it so much that it becomes my primary reading device, I’ll upgrade to a better screen, more formats, etc. But starting out expensive? Uh-uh. No way.

  21. veinglory
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 14:45:58

    For me the eink just doesn’t work. Black on gray reading is too hard on my eyes.

  22. RfP
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 14:55:03

    my purse is not big enough for a Kindle/Sony. I'm really leaning toward the iPhone. Why carry around ANOTHER device …. I'm just worried about the size of the iPhone screen

    That’s where I was a few months ago, and I still wish the iPhone had worked for me as an e-reader. I gradually stopped reading on it because of the screen size. I do have a couple of books on it for dire emergencies.

    Things like formats and DRM and whatever else are nearly enough to make me forget the idea altogether but somehow I'm still a wee bit interested. Not interested enough, though, to fork down many hundreds of dollars on a device that may or may not end up pleasing me.

    I think that initial confusion is something the e-book biz needs to approach experientially. Charts and explanations of options don’t solve it; I needed an easy, cheap path to TRY the technology. My library has simple, free e-book downloads–that’s what helped me start experimenting with formats and DRM, and reading on computer and phone. (Also, because it’s the library, I was fairly sure I could get help.)

    After I got over that hump, the reader technology was the next barrier. Researching devices should be easier now that Sonys are in stores like Target as well as bookstores, but still, an avid reader has a lot at stake (especially at those prices) so an in-store test may not be enough. (I initially liked reading on my phone; it took me a couple of weeks to evaluate it as a device for heavy-duty reading.) I’ll quote my last post on e-books:

    Many libraries provide e-books for download; only a few loan out physical e-reader gizmos loaded with e-books. Based on my experience, both e-publishers and device-makers would benefit from loaner programs. I wouldn’t have tried e-books without the library’s simple package of options (and zero cost). I wouldn’t have persisted and found a technology that works for me if I hadn’t been able to borrow friends’ devices.

    So: I suggest loaner programs at places like campuses, libraries, and airports, all of which provide tech support and have mega-reading populations.

  23. Walt
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 15:34:48

    I’ll tell you where I think this is headed. The highest end notebooks will eventually sport an eink screen on the cover, complete with an unlock touchscreen setup like the touchscreen phones. Windows already has a special setup for a second screen on the exterior of the notebook for when the notebook isn’t on, using minimal resources. Convert that small external screen app to an eink screen for an extra $200 and you can prolly read your push email without opening your laptop.

  24. MoJo
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 15:38:20

    Emily, me, too. Love my eBookWise.

    I went to Target to see the Sony and I’ll tell you…my eyeballs crossed about the second I saw the text on the screen.

    And I wanted to like it–no, I wanted to LOVE it. I expected to and…I didn’t. Very disappointing.

    But I agree with RfP about needing to see and touch and read them before buying. That’s one reason I would never get a Kindle (amongst a whole buncha other, more important reasons)–can’t get something like that without knowing what you’re getting and especially at that price.

  25. Seressia
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 16:31:05

    I’m not ghetto, but I’d buy an eReader under $200, in aheartbeat. Anything over that and I might as well get a mini-PC, like the new Dell one that came out last month. But then I have an iPod Shuffle (my sister gave it to me for Xmas) because all I really want is to listen to a variety of my favorite music in the car and at work.

  26. BevQB
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 16:40:50

    You know what’s really ironic? These companies keep adding the bells and whistles that keep the price of eReaders high (and climbing), so when eReaders don’t take off and become must-have items, the industry will blame US (consumers), saying we just aren’t interested. When it seems that just the opposite is true– we ARE interested, but THEY just aren’t listening to what we’re telling them we want! I think you’re absolutely right that eReaders aren’t going to take off until an entry level reader is released. And (more irony), it’s THAT manufacturer that will end up setting the standard based on the quantities they will sell. They become the “standard” eReader for the general population, and consumers looking for more features will be inclined to trade-up to their next levels to stay with that brand.

    I’m still SO disappointed with Astak. I wasn’t really looking at the entry level 5″ that they’ve scrapped. But I was looking forward to the release of the the 6″ which they originally announced would run on Windows CE (I was told through email they were trying to get the okay from Microsoft to support .LIT), and optional wifi and bluetooth. Now it’s Linux with no wifi or bluetooth, although they ARE showing LIT as a supported file format.

    Assuming they actually get around to releasing a product this time, they are promising support for PDF, DOC, RTF, HTML, TXT, MP3, WOL, CHM, RAR/ZIP, FB2, Djvu, Epub, BMP, JPG, LIT, PRC.

    So what do you techie folks think? Are they worth waiting for?

    Up until recently, I was firmly in the camp that believes that PDA’s and UMPC’s are the better deal. And I wouldn’t even consider a device that wasn’t backlit/toplit in some way. But my ebook reading has dwindled to zero because I just can’t stand to stare at my HP iPAQ screen for very long anymore. Same goes for reading on my PC or laptop. So eInk it is. Plus, if I’m understanding everyone right, the eInk eReaders retain the Instant On capability that the PDA has but the UMPCs, laptop, and PCs do NOT have.

    Now, Sony’s new model sounds like they listened to consumers and gave it some nifty, user-friendly features, but it still has that irritating proprietary format. Thank you dasbearpork, for the PDF info, but wouldn’t it be just peachy if the Sony supported other file formats without needed ME to do the conversion first? Or, in the case of my DRMed .LIT, without me doing TWO conversions– one to HTML format and a second conversion of the HTML to PDF format.

  27. Angela James
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 17:15:45

    I have an iPhone, an Asus Eee, a Kindle, a Sony Reader and an Ebookwise.

    For reading, I currently use the Kindle. If Sony had wireless, I’d use that instead. I don’t use the Kindle because of the access to the store, but because of the ability to send my books to my device without going through a conversion process and hooking up to the computer: so far I’ve been able to read non-drm’d pdf, non-drm’d prc, doc, txt and rtf on it without any conversion on my part. That means I can forward every submission I get to myself without any other time involved. I actually figured out the time this saves me, for a Kindle-based interview I did, and it works out to a good chunk of time for a month/year.

    If I could do this with the Sony instead, I would, because the Sony has a much nicer, sexier, more compact design, it has the flip-over “backlight”, and it will read DRM’d PDFs. But the truth is, the convenience of the wireless for me now is really a time saver.

    I would never use the Asus Eee as an ereader. The battery life is absolutely terrible (maybe two hours if I’m lucky), and even though it’s small, it’s still not so compact that I want to keep it in my purse all the time. The Eee wouldn’t get me through even a long wait at a doctor’s office, let alone a plane ride. I love the Eee for many other reasons, but not for use as an ebook reader.

    The Ebookwise was my first reader and it’s what I recommend to anyone interested in an entry level reader who doesn’t need any bells or whistles. In fact, I bought one for my brother–who had no prior knowledge of ereaders and didn’t even know such a device existed. He’s had it three months and he loves it. And it has an integrated backlight, which I think is still really a nice feature.

    I don’t mind reading on the iPhone. The apps available for reading make it easy to do. It’s not my preferred device for reading but I would use it if it were the only device I had access to (and I always keep random books loaded on it in case I’m caught somewhere without my ebook reader).

    I’d love to get my hands on some of the other devices (Iliad, Cybook, Astak) so I could compare them and speak more knowledgeably about them when people ask, but so far my experience is limited to the ones above.

    I think the real winner of the ebook “chase” is going to be the company who makes their device available around the world. With mass market prices at anywhere from $20-$30 or more in countries like New Zealand and Australia, if a company can make an ereader accessible to people there, it would actually be cheaper for the avid book reader (TM Keishon :P) to buy a dedicated ebook device so they can download a $5-$10 dollar ebook, rather than paying the outrageous prices in their local bookstore.

  28. Jill Myles
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 17:19:10

    The ebookwise is only $139?

    Now I know what to ask for on my birthday. Thanks Angie!

  29. Kristy
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 18:25:10

    The PRS 505 is NOT the entry level model for Sony. The PRS 500 is. I know. I own it. I love it. I don’t think you can ever speak for e-ink technology or ebook readers until you actually own one. Now that I own one I am watching with anticipation for upgrades that I actually need or want. I don’t want wifi on my reader. I don’t want a touch screen and I don’t care for the Kindle..although the newer model they’re touting looks better than that clunky piece of crap they have on the market now.

    Price is not of issue. I have saved hundreds by buying ebooks versus paper books and I am not killing tree’s anymore. It’s worth it. Buy one…you’ll become a believer.

  30. Kristy
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 18:26:24

    grayscale is nothing like e-ink. It’s like reading from a calculator screen…can’t move it and you better hope there’s never any sun.

  31. MoJo
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 18:36:09

    grayscale is nothing like e-ink. It's like reading from a calculator screen…can't move it and you better hope there's never any sun.

    Well, we all have different physiological needs and mine is that I couldn’t look at the Sony reader longer than a few seconds before my eyes got tired. That was at Target under fluorescent light.

  32. Teddypig
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 20:22:48

    BevQB,

    I think it is ironic kinda sorta that the first words I heard when people saw the Sony PRS-505 was… hey no TOUCH SCREEN. The next thing was… hey no BACK LIGHT.

    So Sony gives you touch screen and back light with the PRS-700 and now everyone wants wireless.

    Sony just seems to not want to have to run servers like Amazon for a similar wireless feature. They now with the opening of the eReader to Adobe PDF DRM seem to be saying they do not want to have to sell every eBook for that eReader.

    They are making an opening for another company like All Romance eBooks or someone else to step in, in a Fictionwise way, and setup a Sony oriented eBook delivery system.

    Sony might eventually give you wireless but only through an internet access service you buy with an internet interface on the PRS.

    So remember all that stuff the Kindle has going for it from wireless access to eBooks down to the very eBook format you read on the Kindle which is Amazon proprietary is all based on Amazon spending the money to remain in support.

    Sony is opening things up and the ball is now in Amazon’s court.

  33. Melisse
    Oct 05, 2008 @ 21:58:45

    So far I have seen no reason to upgrade from my palm z22 with Mobipocket. I love the back light, the scroll function, the ability to change text and background colors to suit the lighting. It is small but fits right in my hand, or I can prop it up against something(like my pillows). It holds about 30 books. The small screen doesn’t bother me at all. Plus it stores my calendar, shopping lists etc.

    PDF or HTMl can be quickly converted on the desktop program, so I can read free books or books from very small publishers, plus I can upload my own WIP for review.

    Plus it cost less than $100.

    I would like music and internet access and the iphone looks interesting, but I am willing to wait until something comes along that I just have to have.

  34. Jenyfer Matthews
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 02:00:05

    The Ebookwise was my first reader and it's what I recommend to anyone interested in an entry level reader who doesn't need any bells or whistles.

    Ditto! I love my Ebookwise and it’s a great way to dip your toes in the water with ebook gadgets. Sure, there are some format limitations (unless you start getting into doing file conversions which I have done a time or two) but so far I’ve been more than pleased with what I’ve been able to load on to it. I love the backlight feature – and so does my husband because I can read and he can sleep. I travel a lot and I love being able to read on a plane without also being in the spotlight (hate those reading lights!)

    I admit to not being the most adventurous with gadgets – I am *considering* getting a Shuffle for myself someday :) – but it you are looking for an economical way to try out ebooks, I think this is the most reasonable option at present.

  35. Jessica
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 06:23:29

    I agree that cost is important. Personally, I think the multifunction issue looms larger when your source is the internet: of course people on the net are going to want multifunction devices: look at the folks who have commented here, and how knowledgeable they are about the various devices even if they don’t own one. That’s not typical.

    An interesting question is how “success” is measured for ereader. Every couple of years the NEA does a study that shows levels of fiction reading on a sharp decline (then other folks chime in that digital reading– the internet – has replaced traditional reading). So what do we want the ereaders to do? Get a larger share of that dwindling number of readers, or actually entice new readers?

    Also, the NEA and other studies show that the declines are slower among women. Women read fiction more than men, way more. But are these ereader folks marketing to women? Nope. I have read a number of comments in this thread about “fitting the ereader into a purse” and other gender correlated needs, but no response from the makers of ereaders.

  36. roslynholcomb
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 08:19:07

    Don’t any of you find it curious that the price for e-book readers keeps increasing? It’s been my experience with electronics over the years that the first couple of generations with new technology the prices are fairly high. Then it begins to come down. This has been true for everything from DVD players to cell phones to iPods. Why does the price of e-book readers keep going up?

    I’m so not going to drop $400 for an e-reader. It’s not even a multi-functionality issue for me anymore. It’s simply not practical. Especially given all these freaking format restrictions. I prefer my electronics to be of a simple variety. If I’ve got to spend time hacking around and reformatting stuff I simply won’t bother. It really is unfortunate that these people, who seem so clever with other devices seem totally clueless when it comes to readers.

  37. veinglory
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 10:08:16

    In case anyone thinks my objection to e-ink is theoretical, I *do* own one. I am out rather a lot of money for a device I do not enjoy using even when I can get the battery to hold a charge. I find e-ink is very like greyscale–that is, low contrast and requiring too much focussing effort especially when not under blazing light.

    Different readers have different experiences–so an unhappy consumer is not necessarily just an ignorant one.

  38. Barbara
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 11:36:36

    When I was looking for something with a bigger screen than my Dell Axim I looked at the UMPC, small notebooks, dedicated devices and other PDAs.

    The main trouble with the UMPC and the small notebooks was battery life. Dedicated ebook readers, (not counting ebookwise, but I wanted something more up to date) don’t have back light, which has become a required feature for me. And PDAs don’t come any larger than 4 inch screens.

    I eventually settled on the HTC Advantage which is kind of a hybrid umpc/pda/smartphone. It has a 5 inch screen. Long battery life and I can use any ebook reading program that can run on wm6, (mobipocket my preferred one right now). Lots of storage space on it with a 8gig micro drive but some of that room is taken up by maps for TomTom as it has a built in GPS, very handy. It was kind of expensive but no more so than the iRex iLiad and a multifunction device was my preference.

    It’s pretty difficult to find anything that fit all my requirements, The Advantage was the closest I could get at the time. The Advantage has a lot of bells and whistles I could of done without which could of brought the price down.

    I’m hoping the longevity of it will hold me in good stead as I find the 5 inch screen just about right for me. No way would I be looking to update for anything else anytime soon.

    I would still buy the HTC Advantage over this new Sony, because of the multi functionality of the Advantage. Yep, ok, I’m a sucker for gadgets, maybe the back light issue was just an excuse.

  39. Jen
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 12:13:20

    I think the current problem is that everyone is scrambling to find footing in a proprietary sense. It’s like game consoles. They are 200-500-ish dollars–cheaper than a PC, but within family budget for playing games. Most console makers know they’ll never make a profit off the system, but they’ll recoup the losses from the games (50-60 bucks a pop and then some for “special” stuff). E-readers are trying the same thing–I’ll bet Amazon’s taking a hit for the Kindle and is counting on e-sales to recoup the losses. Sony charged publishers something ridiculous for conversion to their proprietary format until it opened up. The problem is these companies can’t figure out how to make continued revenue on their devices.

    Another issue in the swim is proprietary formats versus open source initiatives. Most of these lower-end readers and smaller computers like the eee were powered by Linux (free as in speech AND beer, so they could be customized to the device), and the price could be kept down without adding in licensing costs or software vendor partnerships. But people keep wanting Windows. Linux is catching up (Ubuntu Hardy, Gnome, and KDE 4, along with Web 2.0 apps are making platform OS choices less of an issue, but there’s still a long way to go), but the early adopters are the only ones at the party so far. Until more comfort in open-source is present in the general public, there will be that extra cost of proprietary software built into the cost of the device, and crippling the uses of that device.

    For my 700bn pence, if you want to make money off e-reading, first make something that’s very basic, $99, and durable, and market it to libraries and schools, to get people used to the idea from childhood and without heavy investment (and save some kids future chiropractic misery, thankyouverymuch says the mother of a 7 year old with a standing appointment).

    Then, start yourself a subscription service. Either a reasonable monthly fee (like 10 or 15/month) or a yearly subscription (maybe a hundred bucks) gets you an e-reading device and either a monthly or yearly amount of included ebooks at a proprietary store to start you out, or a subscription to an electronic mag/news service, *along with* the ability to purchase additional ebooks and e-articles from any store in just about any common format. Every two years, trade in the device for a more modern one. Fed up with the device? Send it back and cancel your sub. Love the thing? An extra handful of clams gets you outright ownership. Offer options for device-only rental or device-plus-ebooks subscription at differing levels of included ebooks or subscriptions (ie, “casual reader” to “bookslut-gimme-gimme-gimme-NOW!”).

    I’d already have a kindle if I knew I wouldn’t be limited to making my purchases only through amazon. I like to buy my ebooks directly from publishers when I can, because I know the author usually gets the most royalties from there. Being stuck to amazon means that I’m subject to their whims and their stock and their format. I want options, man. Options!

  40. Angela James
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 12:28:08

    I’d already have a kindle if I knew I wouldn’t be limited to making my purchases only through amazon. I like to buy my ebooks directly from publishers when I can, because I know the author usually gets the most royalties from there. Being stuck to amazon means that I’m subject to their whims and their stock and their format. I want options, man. Options!

    I own a Kindle and I don’t buy any of my books from Amazon. I buy all my books direct from publishers or at alternate online stores.

  41. Chrissy
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 12:56:06

    Wow, Angela, I get almost 5 hours out of my EEE. I did buy the better battery, and use the original for a backup.

    But I’m also fond of plugging in at cafes for net and stuff, too. In fact I am plugged into the wall at the Starbucks near the hospital right this second.

    <– leech :)

  42. RfP
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 14:07:52

    Don't any of you find it curious that the price for e-book readers keeps increasing? It's been my experience with electronics over the years that the first couple of generations with new technology the prices are fairly high. Then it begins to come down. This has been true for everything from DVD players to cell phones to iPods. Why does the price of e-book readers keep going up?

    One factor is that e-readers are, effectively, still in the “first couple of generations” of the technology. New functionality is still being added, and the population using these devices is still tiny. In that sense, e-readers aren’t like DVD players; they’re like iPhones. The new iPhone has more functionality; the device came down in price, but the service plan went up: net increase in cost. And that’s after Apple has sold 10 million iPhones worldwide–massive for a niche device, but nothing compared to the phone market.

    I have no idea what sales are like for e-readers, but they’re probably still in the phase where they’re hoping to milk the consumer surplus. Early adopters are willing to pay high prices; the seller wants to balance the price with the number of buyers so the price can come down and still bring in a profit. The chicken-and-egg question is when the price comes down: early to lure more buyers, or later after finding more buyers.

    That’s all for conventional self-contained goods, though. For a media device, I wonder if the math could work to make the device itself a loss leader for book sales. I’m sure that’s the case for the Kindle because Amazon profits from both device and content; I’m not sure whether other e-reader-makers can pull off the same math.

    start yourself a subscription service. Either a reasonable monthly fee (like 10 or 15/month) or a yearly subscription (maybe a hundred bucks) gets you an e-reading device and either a monthly or yearly amount of included ebooks at a proprietary store to start you out, or a subscription to an electronic mag/news service, *along with* the ability to purchase additional ebooks and e-articles from any store in just about any common format.

    I would *love* a subscription service, but I wonder how many others would. I’m baffled by how small the market is for streaming audio subscription services. I pay US$79/year for unlimited streaming music that I can play on PC or MP3 player. Compared to buying each track at $.99 apiece, or even $.10 apiece, it’s a SCREAMING deal. But those services struggle with low subscribership.

    OTOH while subscriptions aren’t popular with avid listeners, they seem to work for parts of the avid-reader population (e.g. Harlequin). What makes the difference?

  43. NatCh
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 14:55:30

    Gee, Jane, as big a deal as you made of the lack of a backlight on the PRS500, I’d’ve thought you’d be at least a tiny bit excited about the front lighting on the 700 …. ;)

    Seriously though, you’re not far off on the LCD display idea for bottom, bottom end devices. There are several reflective LCD displays that aren’t much harder on the eyes than e-ink, but the trade-off there is of course, battery life. Same goes for laptops, but you get to add in weight. At 10 oz. and ~3 weeks of use per charge, the PRS line makes a pretty solid case to those who are focused on those points.

    There’s some good news on the e-ink front. One of the things that came out of the news Event on October 2nd is that there are now multiple companies licensed to make e-ink, instead of only one: PVI. There’s about to be some competition in the area, which should serve to drive the cost of the displays down … as much as they can be driven, of course. (shrug)

    As for those who’ve expressed the view that what they already have works fine for them: excellent! The important bit is that each person find something that works for them. And if it’s something already mainstream (as most of these other methods seem to be) then surely those methods are in no wise threatened by the advent of these e-ink readers, are they? :)

  44. Jane
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 15:01:11

    @NatCh: LOL! I am excited about the integrated front light and the touchscreen. I do think that eink technology is innovative, but I’m a frustrated ebook reader because not every publishing house is releasing its books in ebook format and some not at the same time as print books are released.

    It seems that until ebooks are less a niche item (and I would argue that iPhones aren’t niche) and more mainstream, my needs as an ebook reader won’t be met.

    I’m an early adopter and will be buying another ebook reader probably within the next twelve months but I do think that there needs to be some kind of low priced entry level device for readers who are interested but don’t want to yet take the plunge with a high priced device. (another note, the PRS500 was never an entry level device in my opinion. It was the first generation of the Sony Reader and was replaced with the PRS 505. The PRS 505 is still sold by Sony Reader along with the new Sony PRS 700. Given that the SONY PRS 700 is the more expensive and feature rich of the two, I figure that the PRS 505 is considered “entry level” by Sony).

  45. NatCh
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 16:31:08

    Well, Jane, my friend, I don’t see anything there that I’d care to argue with except the nit-picky and obscure point that the PRS500 was actually Sony’s 2nd e-ink device, but the Librie was incredibly poorly executed and deserves to be utterly forgotten in my opinion.

    I’d certainly agree that the iPhone isn’t “niche” — I see other folks with those all the time, even in small-town Tennessee, but for all I know, I could be the only schmuck in Jackson that has a Reader. (shrug)

    I very much want to see e-reading catch on just as you do, and for mostly the same reasons. It ain’t there yet by a long shot, but there’s a lot more movement now than there was even three years ago, and most of it has to do with e-ink. The publishers are a dinosaur industry, and it takes a while for genuine consideration of new concepts to penetrate those tiny little hind-brains of theirs. :(

    They are starting to come around, though, Sony had five fairly big ones (Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Harlequin, and Penguin) represented at their event last week. There’s some reason to hold onto hope. :)

    (reference on the publishers: http://mikecane2008.wordpress.com/2008/10/03/sony-reader-prs-700-part-one/)

  46. Jane
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 19:26:09

    @NatCh: I was referring to a previous commenter who said the PRS 500 is the entry level. Didn’t mean to direct that at you.

    I agree that we are moving forward in the ebook industry and clearly publishers seem motivated to promote digital initiatives. I am just wondering if we are doing enough.

  47. MoJo
    Oct 06, 2008 @ 19:55:09

    Jane, we the consumers or “we” as part of the publishing industry collective?

    ‘Cause I’m doing what I can:

    1. Keeping abreast of the news, talking about it, opening the door of digital to the other corners of the internet I inhabit,

    2. Buying ebooks about as fast as I can get Roboform to drop my cc numbers into the forms,

    3. Making my voice heard to the right people with regard to things that can be bettered.

    I’d sure like the evolution to go faster, though. Just today I wanted to get Sara Reinke’s books Dark Thirst (#1 in series) and Dark Hunger (#2 in series), but guess what? Dark Thirst isn’t available in E and Dark Hunger is #2 in a series and I so am not going to leap-frog a series. (And unfortunately, something has gone awry with #3.) Since this was today’s ebook misadventure, I haven’t gotten around to contacting Kensington about it, but I was not a happy camper, so you can bet I will.

    In any case, I think the push is going about as well as can be expected, particularly with publishing being the lumbering behemoth that it is. I don’t know what more can be done at this point by us regular joes, except to preach the Gospel of Digital.

    Let me know what I can do and I’ll do it! ;)

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  50. ShellBell
    Oct 10, 2008 @ 02:04:42

    I mainly use a Palm T/X as it gives me 3 format options – mobipocket, ereader (Palm format) and pdf. I also have a laptop and an Asus Eee that I can read my books on. The only thing I have against the Palm is that I would prefer a slightly larger screen. I prefer the mobipocket format and desktop reader, but mobipocket is limited to only 3 devices so I tend to buy ereader format where possible. I would love to try an Iliad, but they just aren’t available in New Zealand. I’m not even fussed about not having wireless access as I always download to my laptop first and save to an external hard drive and then eventually to a CD. I only want to be able to read books on the Palm not do anything else – a bit of a waste of a great little device but the bells an whistles are just wasted on me.

    ***I think the real winner of the ebook “chase” is going to be the company who makes their device available around the world. With mass market prices at anywhere from $20-$30 or more in countries like New Zealand and Australia, if a company can make an ereader accessible to people there, it would actually be cheaper for the avid book reader (TM Keishon :P) to buy a dedicated ebook device so they can download a $5-$10 dollar ebook, rather than paying the outrageous prices in their local bookstore.***

    I would love it if there were more device options available in New Zealand – I guess the market is too small! The ridiculous price of mass market books here is what eventually led me to eBooks (and the fact that I don’t have the ability to ‘share’ books and therefore have books returned to me in a less than satisfactory condition). Having the ability to buy eBooks has opened me to a huge number of authors that I would never have discovered otherwise. I love being able to carry my library around with me. I definitely spend more money now than when I bought paperbacks, especially when the exchange rate is more favourable for me.

  51. student
    Oct 10, 2008 @ 20:39:49

    I have used a demo version of the PRS 700, and it rocks my socks. I LOVE the touch screen, and the refresh rate is better than the Kindle, as is the note-taking keyboard. The Reader is easy to carry, easy to read. It reads PDFs!. I can take notes on it. And after I purchase it from Sony, I don’t ever have to give Sony another dime–unlike Kindle which ties you to Amazon and the Kindle format.

    You say it should be a multi-function device? I don’t need no stinkin’ multi-function device. I don’t listen to music when I read. My phone has all the wi-fi I need. And why in creation would I want the ability to one-click purchase books wirelesly through my Reader? That way lies trouble of the “kid-in-a-candy-shop” variety. If I had any will-power, wi-fi might be nice, but I don’t, so, Thanks for watching my back, Sony!

    What I need is a lightweight reader with a long battery life to take the place of the several pounds of print-outs and books I lug to and from my classes. It’s an ergonomics issue. Yes, the price is still high, but with my reading load it will save money in the long term, and it will save me some back pain. I can not wait until this device comes out.

    Really, I can’t wait. My back is killing me…

  52. Bree
    Oct 16, 2008 @ 13:21:13

    Yeah, I think Sony and others are missing the boat. Ebook reading is about the content. The device needs to get out of the way, so I can read! I would buy a stand alone device, if it was affordable and supported formats I preferred.

    So for now, I’ll keep reading my eBooks on my Treo with eReader and Mobipocket.

    For those who don’t like reading on a PDA – try it with the brown screen and cream text. Very easy on the eyes, and much easier to read in bed without disturbing your partern with the bright backlight.

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