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November 16, 2010

The eBook Haters Meme

Over at SF Signal, John posted a set of questions about eBooks, for people who aren’t keen on eBooks. If you’ve been listening to Wordpunk you’ll know that I’m not the greatest fan, so I thought I’d try and spell out why, using the questions as my framework:

Have you ever tried reading an eBook?


If so, on what device?

I’ve read a book on a Nokia 6230 which is not recommended, the screen is tiny and the experience is terrible. I’ve also read portions of eBooks on laptops, but generally I end up printing them out to finish them. I’ve tried out in shops various E-Ink readers and was unimpressed with the display and the refresh. I’ve read web pages on an iPad, I couldn’t imagine reading a book on it. No, I haven’t read anything on a Kindle.

What's your single main reason for not reading eBooks?

An inferior reading experience to proper books. I spend all day at work staring at a computer screen, the last thing I want to do is read another screen in the morning or evening. Reading from paper is relaxing. Plus the form of a paperback book is far superior to current eBook readers, they’re small, portable, zero-boot time, you can drop them on the floor, put mugs of tea on top, generally not care about their safety, flick back and forwards etc. etc.

Are there any other reasons you don't usually read eBooks?

Cost, both of buying an eBook reader device and of buying the actual eBooks. Instead of buying a Kindle I can buy at least twenty paperback books.

What would it take to get you to read eBooks?

A good reason. If eBooks are as expensive as paperbacks, or sometimes more expensive, and if the reading experience is, in my opinion, inferior, why would I? The often quoted reason is that you can carry lots of books around with you. For music I can understand that, on average a song lasts four minutes, you need a few to keep you listening for a while. But a book? On holiday I might finish a book in a week, but usually it takes longer. I don’t need to carry lots of books around with me.

What do you think is a fair price for an eBook?

Less than a paperback. I’ll probably regret saying that when my first novel is published, but as a consumer I don’t see why I should pay more when I get less physical stuff. Yes, yes, I know all the arguments about production costs, marketing, on and on. That argument played out in the music business a while ago, and the result is that the price of a digital album needs to be less than that of a physical CD. Same for books. Arguing the point is delaying the inevitable.


I do agree that the fetish for ebooks is not something I get. I have the kindle app for my samsung galaxy s and reading off of it is tiring. I have seen the iPad in kindle mode, I do not see the point. I have have not tried the current kindle hardware which gets positive feedback.

However I like reading real books. I know I must be a luddite.