Technology, Readers and Writers

Big "news" in the tech-blogosphere about Amazon’s Kindle eBook reader. Here’s two links to check out if you want: Booksquare analysis and Sandy Schwab’s post on the subject.

Here’s my take:
What a colossal mistake. Again. Boy, I hope somebody gets this right someday. But acting like a cell phone company ain’t going to sell your gadget. Why would anyone do that? People already despise their cell phone carriers for overpriced and underperforming technology designed to rip you off — because they can.

I remember reading a while back, can’t remember where, that someone attending an O’Reilly conference, who happened to be a techie and Romance reader, challenged the assumptions about the assumed market for eBooks and eBook readers. The Techies, being basically ignorant about reading and publishing, assumed it’s men and refused to believe the truth about women and their reading habits. Alas. What a missed opportunity.

Here’s a few facts to set the scene of this fiasco:
Women buy most books. Women also buy the most eBooks. Let me direct any non-believers to Ellora’s Cave See also eHarlequin, their Spice offerings in particular. I’ve bought from Ellora’s Cave. Typically, I download my eBooks in pdf, print them two book pages per page, and double-sided (I love my printer!) stick them in a binder and read in bed. Since I’m a writer, if I read on a computer, my head is in editing mode…

So, I read a bit about the Kindle and here were my thoughts pretty much in order:

  1. $400?? Are they out of their effin minds?1
  2. It’s ugly
  3. Black and white? That sucks
  4. No pdf? Are they out of their effin minds?

Plus, it’s too big. But maybe that wouldn’t matter so much if it weren’t so ugly. Still how is that thing going to fit in my purse, to be brought out at moments of downtime (waiting in line, appts, lunchtime, boring events.) Booksquare is right. The only color for a device that people are going to carry around and push buttons on is black. Or at least dark colors that hide grime. Quick, what color is your keyboard. Take a good look at it. That’s what your reader will look like in 5 months, only worse.

And then I moved on. I’m not going to pay that kind of money for DRM’d crap that won’t load formats provided by the REAL eBook pubs (and Amazon, sorry, that’s not you) If this device were say, $200 or less, it took pdfs and html, even if the display was B&W, I could load up all my eBooks, probably including my grad school research (oh, my god!! wouldn’t that be awesome? Research at my fingertips!!) Hell, I could even pdf my own WIPs. All my Regency Library stuff why, the mind boggles… See, that’s what’s missing from the Kindle, that, oh my gosh, look at all the stuff I could do with that! My life would be better if I had that. Only it wouldn’t be.

So to sum up, no one at Amazon seems to have thought about talking to actual readers or publishers, with or without eBook experience. They have a gadget and can only think that gadgets are for men. (I’m guessing here.) But at RWA in NY, which was what, 2002? 2004?, there were women there reading eBooks on their PDA’s. Because the ePubs were already successfully selling eBooks2. But PDA’s were not the right gadget — plus, too expensive.

1. If I had $400 to burn, I’d get an iPhone.
2. In those days, EC looked like a promising venture, but it was by no means certain. Fast Forward a few short years. NY is copying EC. They proved eBooks work.

Amazon, you blew it.

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2 Responses to “Technology, Readers and Writers”

  1. Sandra Schwab says:

    I’ve ordered a Cybook last week because that’s the only e-reader currently available in Europe. I didn’t really want a PDA (I’m hopeless with calendars and stuff, and an electronic one wouldn’t make any difference, imo; besides I like the big screen and the e-ink technology of the Cybook), but I have to admit that my mouth watered when I watched an online video of the iPhone. Wow. What a cool gadget! However, I’ve already got a mobile, I’m hopeless with calendars and I don’t really need an iPod either. So … Cybook.

    I’ve already started downloading loads of books from Project Gutenberg and some from the free library of Baen Books, too. Free books. That’s what I totally adore about e-books. 🙂

  2. Carolyn says:

    Thanks, Sandy. Someday I hope someone gets their head out of the sand and does this right. I will say, though, that I rely on Google calendar (which I synch to my mobile phone) to keep my life organized.

    Carolyn