Explain E-Readers to Somebody Missing the Point

I am an avid reader. I try to read at least 100 novels a year, keep stacks of shorter books near the toilet, and read technical books at work. When I go home I visit the LoC reading rooms, and I frequent reference libraries to see rarer works. In all my collection is like 600 books at my parent’s house, 200 waiting to be shipped from MUC, and about 50 I am currently using here in Taipei.

I feel like no matter how fast I run I cannot get away from something talking about E-Readers being the next big thing. Even my broker discussed investing in companies preparing to release E-Readers. This is all well and good, but I have no idea what advantages they provide.

I think the idea of having thousands of books on one device is neat, but in reality who is reading any more than two or three books at a time? I get the idea of instant shopping, but people traveling under the whispernet probably are not too far off from just buying the book at a bookstore or can wait a day to have it overnight shipped and own a physical copy that exists. Books generally aren’t so big you can’t throw them in a bag or something.

The battery life thing also seems like a downgrade. 4-5 days of life is good, but compared to a book which has up to thousands of years life it makes no sense. Plus I tend to use reference books when there is no power/net available which would make an ebook reader sort of pointless.

The cost is insane compared to just buying books. The kindle for example is like 250$, then the books basically cost as much as the paper version. Even more if you factor in not being able to buy the books used at a huge discount. Absurd if you consider that libraries exist and generally allow free circulation of the same books.

To me a dedicated e-reader seems like a fad. A decent idea that should be incorporated into phones, pdas, and other devices instead of a stand alone appliance. For those that do use them, what are your thoughts and what drove you to a purchase? I am genuinely curious as to what the allure is(especially since my mom wants one for christmas)

Font size can be adjusted. Hugley popular with older readers as big font books are very expensive.
Costs per book are lower and should continue to drop.
No paper used.
Waiting for a book is a hassle and as a busy person I don’t feel like spending 3 hours of my day to go downtown to buy a book.
Free first chapter samples.
In this internet age I would like a seamless process of seeing a book mentioned online and being able to check it out and maybe read it right away.
Great for travelling.
As for costs of the devise, it’s a little like arguing that no one would buy an Ipod just to play music when they can just buy the music and play it on existing devises.

Books are still great and will continue to exist. e-readers are great too.

I thought those things came out years ago and were a total bust, with people complaining that reading them hurts the eyes.
So is this a new thing?

[quote=“sandman”]I thought those things came out years ago and were a total bust, with people complaining that reading them hurts the eyes.
So is this a new thing?[/quote]

Yep. Use electronic ink. Mimics the real thing and can be read in bright sunlight as it is not backlit.

The problem years ago was not the devices so much as the publishing industry which refused to allow bestseller to be electronic, charged the same for an e-book as a hardover, and so on. Amazon was able to do this because they already have the book distribution and could presure publishers.

One of many reasons publishing is in such disarry is their rejecion of e-books over the past ten years. They held themselves hostage to the bestseller and slowly squeezed the life out of the mid-list as it just didn;t bring in enough profits. e-books give smaller publishers a greater shot at getting books out to people.

Mucha Man mentions most of the key points. Especially in a place like Taiwan where any book you want might not be available at the local bookstore, I really like the concept of instant gratification, straight onto my device.

If I’m going on an extended trip, then packing two or three books (especially hard cover ones) can get pretty bulky. Also, like the OP, I have collected a lot of books over the years, many of which I won’t read again, and I always marvel at the sheer waste of resources - I hate to just put them in the recycle bin. I suppose I could donate them to some cause, where they would probably go to waste there, instead of in my apartment.

My wife likes the Kindle for its built in dictionary. Much easier (and quicker) than looking up words she doesn’t know in a standard dictionary. The text to speech feature is nice, although I haven’t put it to use yet.

I think we are still ahead of the time, since ebooks are still fairly pricey and the selection for international users is pretty minimal. However I do see this changing once there are more ereaders being sold and there is more competition in the marketplace. I think for the concept to reach the masses, two things need to happen:

  1. The prices of ereaders need to come down to under $100 US.
  2. Color e-ink should be developed, so that reading an ebook gives the reader a more lively experience than reading a standard book. I find the grayscale a little boring on the eyes. Yes, standard book text isn’t in color either, but at least the pages are yellowish, and you have a nice attractive book cover. Some of the new eReaders (like the B&N Nook) are adding secondary color screens where you can surf the web and such while reading. That concept interests me.
  3. eBook pricing needs to be waaaay cheaper than standard books. Production and distribution costs of ebooks are infinitely less than their standard book equivalents - pass on that savings to the consumer! I’m pretty sure the average eBook reader will end up buying a lot more eBooks than they would regular books if the pricing and distribution were that much better.

Another key point, getting ripped 'book’s and downloading them will be a big incentive to purchase this. I’d rather pay a couple of bucks so the money went to the author of course. I know I would purchase many more books if the price came down more, books are just too dang expensive to buy off the bat without knowing you will like them or not!

I think this will create an interesting business opportunity too, opening up ‘long-tail’ publishing and creating markets and more revenue for less mainstream books, as Mucha Man alluded too, this is a neglected market. I would also like to use it to purchase out of print books and since I live in a rural area at present it’s not easy to get to an English bookstore. In addition you will avoid tax/customs fees of services such as Amazon, seems like plenty of pluses for avid readers.

Good point, headhonchoII. There are several books I’d love to read but that are out of print. There’s no excuse now why EVERY single book out there shouldn’t be available electronically.

Did you guys know that Ironlady over at the learning Chinese section has written her own book, that’s available on Amazon?? I want to get my copy, but with shipping and such I’m guessing it would be double the price (may still do it anyway). It would be no brainer if there was an ebook version…

I didn’t know she had published a book. She should turn it into an e-book and make it downloadable, changing it into .pdf format should be a synch.

The other thing I forgot to mention, this is going to revolutise the publishing business with authors going direct to market in many cases, interesting times.

well for me i’m a student at MTC and i’m hoping to do engineering eventually
so i can use the E-Reader to conveniently carry around multiple chinese textbooks that happened to fall
from the bittorrent sky and land in my laptop’s harddrive…

and i can also carry a couple books on engineering for …
keeping my sanity from reading all that chinese and doing chinese

by the way if anyone would like someone to speak chinese with in
taipei i really suck and need a pardner.

also its a great thing for the commute.

My understanding is that most of the ebook content available now is English only, although I expect that to change soon.

Another good feature, so I hear, is search. You can’t do an electronic search for terms or phrases on a paper book.

I thought you could, isn’t that what all the fuss has been about with Google uploading books by the gazillion?

[quote=“masterdoko”]well for me I’m a student at MTC and I’m hoping to do engineering eventually
so i can use the E-Reader to conveniently carry around multiple Chinese textbooks …[/quote]

You are getting a degree in Chinese engineering? How does that work? Building the Gold Medalists of tomorrow?

I am not against the idea of e-books in particular. But situations like this make no sense to me:
New book HC - 12$
Kindle version - 9$
New book PB - 7$
Used but good condition book- 3$

If kindle wanted to sell to me, I would rather pay a flat 20-25$/month fee to “check out” a few books at a time from a virtual library than pay for the convenience of having a book in 60 seconds. What happens if 10 years from now if the format changes and my books become unreadable on new devices? What if the e-reader phenom dies out and Amazon discontinues whispernet? In movies and music, digital distribution is advantageous because they are dealing with constantly changing methods of delivery anyways. Books have been both the content and the device for quite some time now.

The problem with DD is that brick and mortar stores exist and remain the dominant generator of media sales. If OL Store makes a book 5$ vs BM Store at 10$, BM Store will just stop carrying the book which would make OL Store collapse as it cannot survive on dd revenue alone.

My real confusion stems from seeing people on transit carrying a computer, texting on their cellphone, reading from their e-reader, and listening to an mp3 player. Why would you want an extra device to lug around when you have at least 2 others which can already display e-books.

The smartphone is probably ideal for reading a book in short bursts on the go, but if you wanted to read a digital book in a long session, e-ink is more comfortable than a backlit lcd screen.

I imagine the e-book will take off very nicely in China, where digital book piracy is more rampant than in the US. As for developed nations, I think it won’t be long before we get to different pricing schemes (monthly all-you-can-eat, for example) that make it a better value proposition than paper. And the collaborations with libraries by Google and Sony are very promising indeed (remotely “check out” a digital book from a library). No more having to handle the sticky, worn out, decaying specimens of public libraries.

Anyone interested in ebooks should take a look at Project Gutenberg:


Tens of thousands of ebooks for free, not copy-protected in any way, and entirely legal. Yes, they are mostly old books with expired copyrights, but some great classics can be found there. Many are out-of-print, and if you can buy them (perhaps as a Penguin classic) you’d pay through the nose.


[quote=“Dog’s_Breakfast”]Anyone interested in ebooks should take a look at Project Gutenberg:


Tens of thousands of ebooks for free, not copy-protected in any way, and entirely legal. Yes, they are mostly old books with expired copyrights, but some great classics can be found there. Many are out-of-print, and if you can buy them (perhaps as a Penguin classic) you’d pay through the nose.

PG is just the source. For properly processed and end-user files, check out these sites:


There are .epub versions for “proper” e-readers and PC book reading software as well as pdfs and html.

When you say take off in china how do you mean?

Just wait and see what happens with comics/graphic novels when Apple’s tablet and similar beefed-up devices become available.

Aside from editorials, Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side, I hadn’t read any comics in 20 years. Tried a few on an iPhone app and was very impressed (save for the screen size).

Animated cartoons, like Ann Telnaes’ work will take off. Enhanced editions like Nick Cave’s Death of Bunny Munro become possible.

Wrap the reader in a very robust frame and the possibilities for early childhood education are pretty exciting.

This is one area I’m old school on. People spend enough time at work reading and working from their computers. People listen to music, talk to friends, store pictures, download and watch movies, play games, and do countless other things with their phones. I was an early adaptor for using these technologies. However, I would never purchase an e-reader. When it comes to reading for pleasure, I want a book. Love the smell of the paper, the feel of the cover, and storing it on an old dusty bookshelf when I’m done and coming back months or years later. For newspapers, sure I’ll check online versions for recent news, but I still like reading a printed newspaper on the weekend.