By Darren E Laws
Nick Hornby this week raises a perfectly valid point by highlighting the exorbitant cost of electronic book reading machines. Whist the Kindle has some pretty neat built-in technology with the capability to fetch content from Amazon’s website (though not in the UK as of this moment) and a version of the Iliad (Kindle’s main rival) can also hook up to Wi-Fi to fetch content, these machines are coming in at the cost of more versatile computer hardware and lower-end laptops, all of which have greater versatility and the ability to deliver multimedia content. So the question has to be asked, is the industry serious about the delivery of ebook content or is has it misread the market. Let’s face it, given the choice of having a multi-functioning media delivery machine such as a laptop or PDA that can deliver ebook content in a legible form that is convenient; or a lump of plastic the size of a trade paperback with a dull colourless screen, which do you think would appeal most to the technically savvy readers of today?
Price as well as a little user-friendly redesigning has to be the issues that will begin to level the playing field and make the delivery of this electronic content more appealing to readers, and more importantly to engage and encourage new readers to use these machines. At the moment the Kindle and Iliad have the appeal of a 1980’s home computer, designed by geeks for geeks. There is little sophisticated or sexy about the bodies of these machines and I can honestly say there probably is not one person under 25 (maybe even 35) that would want to be seen using one in public. These machines are just not cool.
Countries like Japan already seem to have caught on to the fact, and this is born out through the uptake of mobile media content with novels being delivered directly to mobile (cell) phones that are quick to download through Bluetooth or via the Internet. Why buy a machine to read a novel when one is probably already in your pocket? Mobile phone technology is everywhere and increasingly more and more phones have Internet access. You may think it would be an unpleasant experience reading a novel on a standard mobile phone screen but most distributors of content use advanced font technology to east the strain on the eyes and make the whole experience pain free and enjoyable. A full novel can be downloaded in seconds from anywhere you can receive a mobile phone signal or through a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth portal making ease of access and sheer convenience a real plus point for mobile books.
If Nick Hornby, who let’s face it can probably afford to buy a Kindle or Iliad, thinks that they are overpriced then these machines are never going to take off and will remain piled high gather dust and awaiting a recall. I do applaud both Amazon and Irex Technologies though for making the machines in the first place. Now if only they could improve the design and make them cheaper we may all be tempted to read an ebook now and then.