Originally uploaded by MikeOliveri.
The Wife and I spotted the Sony Reader at Borders last night and we stopped to take a look.
I’d heard a lot about the crisp, clean display, but the reviews really don’t do it justice; this thing is just plain easy to read. Hell, you can almost read the screen in the picture attached to this post! It’s a little wider than a standard paperback, but about the same height and quite a bit thinner and lighter. I took a look to make sure no Borders employees were watching and tried to flex it, but it felt sturdy (though I still woulnd’t try sitting on it). The screen didn’t distort when I pressed on it, either.
On the down side, there was a slight delay when turning pages, but it wasn’t too terrible. The controls weren’t very responsive, but I wonder if it was just the book in question (a manual for SD card from the look of it) or if there was really a problem with the software. And last but not least, it costs $300.
I think that price tag puts it well out of reach of most consumers. If it were cheaper, it might be more enticing, especially for someone who reads a lot of books. As it is, I’m thinking unless I did some extensive traveling, I could put up with the grief of carrying a paperback or two. You would also have to convince me I could save enough money to justify the cost.
If I were Sony, here’s how I would change my focus on this thing:
1) Bring the cost down. Assuming the tech and manufacturing allows it, this thing’s got to be sub-$100. At $300, iPods and similar devices look a lot more appealing than a glorified book, and really only appeals to (very) avid readers with a lot of extra cash.
2) I’d find a way to make it just a little more portable. Relocating the buttons along the right side would be a good start. In fact, I’d put a button in each of the upper corners, either along the top or side if not flush with the front, and leave everything else along the bottom. Readers are already used to reaching to the upper corners of the page to turn pages back and forth, so why not put the buttons in the same spot? Take advantage of what’s now instinct, and get this thing a little narrower so it can slip into a pocket.
3) Make a big push for commuters and travelers, and make it easy for them to obtain electronic books. Plus, make it easy for them to adapt their own documents to the book. If they can load it up with things like technical manuals, insurance directories, legal documents, maybe even schematics, it may become more attractive, even when compared to a Palm.
4) Make a bigger push in education. If they can make partnerships with textbook publishers and maybe even set some schools up with grants, they may see a lot of students taking these things home. I think it would have been great to carry one of these and a notebook to all my classes, both in high school and college, rather than lug around a heavy stack of books. And it’s a lot more affordable — be it at $300 or $100 — than a one-to-one computing initiative, both for the students and the schools.
5) If the e-book pricing allows it, demonstrate how much the average reader can save as well. With paperbacks up to $8 a pop and hardcovers floating in the neighborhood of $25, savings could add up quickly even for a sporadic reader. I would also demonstrate how it could make it more palatable to pick up new books. I might be more willing to take a chance on an author I’d never read if it only cost a buck or two.
6) Finally, talk to newspapers and magazines. If someone could subscribe to the Chicago Tribune and have it show up on their reader every morning before they get on the train, or have Cigar Magazine appear automagically, that might be fairly enticing.
You might say “But Mike, now you might as well carry a PDA!”
Not necessarily. First and foremost, the screen on a PDA is not near as conducive to extensive reading as the Sony Reader, and the power consumption is a lot more. This thing only draws a tiny amount of power when changing the page, so the battery lasts a long, long time. Those irritating moments where you’ve forgotten to charge the damn thing become a thing of the past, or at least very infrequent.
Furthermore, cell phones can handle most of the PDA tasks. Carry a smartphone for your communication and organization, and carry this thing for your documents when necessary. Sure, you can’t do much document creation/editing on this guy, but I still think people who do creation on a portable device like a Palm are few and far between, and the smartphone may still be an option there.
But hey, what do I know? I’m just a consumer.
About Mike Oliveri
Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.