Thursday, November 18, 2010

E-Book Readers: Dedicated or Not?

Allow me to go off-topic a bit today and talk about e-book readers.

I've been reading e-books for almost a decade now, starting with a Handspring Visor running Palm OS and now on my iPhone. I've also used a dedicated e-book reader, so I've experienced e-books in many formats.

The big problem with the current generation of e-book readers is the format wars. Yes, it's Beta vs. VHS and HD vs. Blue Ray all over again.

There are three big contenders in the e-book reader world:

Amazon Kindle
Barnes and Noble Nook
Sony Reader

There are more books available in Kindle format than in .ePub, which is the format used by the other two. But library e-books, which are in .ePub or .pdf format, can't be read on Kindles.

So what is an e-book reader to do? Simple. Buy an iPhone or iPod Touch. These devices are now the most universal e-book readers. There is a Kindle app, a Nook app, Stanza for everything non-DRM, and iBooks, if you simply must buy from Apple.

And now there is BlueFire Reader, which plays nicely with Adobe DRM and allows reading library books. I downloaded and tested it this week, and it works well.

Except for a handful of Mobipocket DRM titles, which can be found in other formats, I can read anything on my iPhone.

Yes, all these also work on the iPad, and I expect BlueFire or a similar app will soon be available for Droid.

Why buy a dedicated reader when your smart phone can read anything? And before you say size does matter, remember that I started reading on a 160 by 160 pixel device. Modern smart phones are way beyond that. And most people have them with them all the time.

Any format. Any time. What's not to like?

Amazon is now selling more e-books than hardbacks. Some recent titles have sold more e-books than hardcovers, including sales from sources other than Amazon. It's a great time to be an author of e-books. What's stopping you from writing one?

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