Friends, I hate to be a wet towel, but do us all a favor: Don’t buy an ebook reader yet. I know, I know, Amazon just dropped the price of the Kindle by like 30% or something, which is very cool, but better things are coming if we vote with our feet.
The current eBook readers that are on the market are gaining steam rapidly, and, yes, the devices are actually pretty cool, but there are some real problems with what we’re being offered. Today, I read that Amazon just signed an exclusivity deal with a publisher, guaranteeing that the books by that publisher will only be distributed in paper and to the Kindle. This means that if you have any other eBook reader, you will have to buy the book in print, and won’t be able to download it.
You probably don’t think this is a big deal, just as you didn’t think buying CDs was a big deal ten years ago, but if you’re like me, these days you consider buying CDs to be old school, and would rather sit at home and buy the MP3 over the Internet. Downloading MP3s has become easier than buying CDs, and similarly, in another couple years, buying eBooks will be most people’s preferred method of getting a book — that is, if we have certain freedoms when buying electronic books.
The deal Amazon just signed is going to prompt the competition to try to make similar deals with other publishers, with the result being a fractured market for eBooks. If you want this book, you have to have a Kindle. If you want that book, you have to have a Nook. Etc. Right now, that isn’t too annoying since eBooks aren’t yet that popular, but once eBooks become the norm, this is going to get more and more frustrating for all of us.
On top of this problem, there are other issues with the current eBook ecosystem. For me to switch to using and buying eBooks, I want to be able to do the same things that I can do with real books. I want to be able to share them with my friends. I want them to be in a format that I can keep for decades, read again at a later date, and give to my children. I want to be able to bookmark and underline things, and use them on multiple devices.
There are some movements towards these directions, but until Amazon stops with the exclusivity deals, and all the other eBook readers stop with their locked down devices, it looks like I’ll be voting with my wallet, and staying out of the game.
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