Last weekend I wrote “To Ebook or Not To Ebook” and I’m still agonizing over which ebook reader to get. There are two main issues I’m still worrying over. First, which book is the most comfortable to read for long periods, and second, which ebook reader is the most universal in terms of buying ebooks. I imagine the light E-Ink readers, the Nook and Kindle, are easier to hold for long periods of time, but it’s obvious the iPad can read books from Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and many other smaller ebook sellers. The iPad is almost the universal ebook reader and I’m leaning towards buying it.
My need for reading comfort might put me in a limited market so my buying desires are of less concern to ebook engineers, but I wished they’d consider them. I have bad eyes, and back problems that make it uncomfortable to sit long in one position, and an arm problem that makes holding a book pain inducing over time. I’m getting old and wimpy. I’d love to sit and read for hours like I used to, but it’s a struggle. That’s why I fear the iPad – many reviewers have complained its difficult to hold for lengthy reading sessions.
And, besides that, I don’t want Apple to just crush the competition, so how could the Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Sony ereaders better compete with the iPad?
First off, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders should make a cross license deal to display each other’s DRM material. That way any Kindle, Nook or Kobo owner could buy and read books from all the leading booksellers. The obvious solution would be a universal ebook format and DRM, but that might take years to hammer out. It might be easier to add competitor’s software to each others readers. Obviously, the iPad does it with ease.
The reason why I’m leaning towards the iPad is because I can buy books from all the major ebook retailers and read it on the iPad. If the E-Ink readers want to compete they need to do the same thing. It was foolish of Amazon to start the trend for proprietary readers.
Add a Handle with Trigger
The second way to compete with the iPad is make the E-Ink readers even more svelte and easier to hold. I wished they came with a detachable handle so the ebook reader would look something like a church fan. A nice handgrip with a trigger to page forward would make holding an ebook reader nicer, and make the page turning more convenient. You can leave the back page button on the reader because it wouldn’t be needed that often. I don’t know this for sure, but I imagine a handgrip handle would be more comfortable to hold than holding the ebook reader like a book.
I’m talking about making the device comfortable for reading 8 hours at a stretch. This is where the iPad is weak.
The Third Option
I’ve even thought of another option, but this one by-passes the E-Ink technology. Keep the books in the handle and beam the content to a pair of special glasses via Bluetooth. I wonder if it’s possible to make a pair of glasses that displays words that are even easier to read, something that helps the reader tune out the world and become one with the word. In the music world we’ve moved the speakers into the ears, why not move the page right in front of the eyes?
Why Reading is Specialized
iPad fans lord their gadgets over the E-Ink readers claiming its a universal solution. They ask why anyone would want a specialized device when one device, the iPad, can do so much. I think the iPad is a revolutionary device, it moves the computer screen off the desk or lap and into the hands where it makes a big functional difference. But is that the ultimate location? And is it the right weight and form factor?
Bookworms like to read for hours on end, and the ultimate ebook reader will cater to that need. I tend to believe the lower weight of the E-Ink technology gives it a chance to compete with the more glamorous and universal device of the iPad if they are optimized for streamline reading of text.
Many bloggers and journalists have written about the approaching doom for the E-Ink reader, but I tend to doubt those predictions. That doesn’t mean I won’t buy an iPad any day now, but it also doesn’t mean I won’t buy a Kindle 3 when it comes out. The new Pearl E-Ink technology is appealing. It just galls me to think about buying ebook reader that can’t read all ebooks.
The Deciding Factor
To be honest, the universal ebook reader of the iPad sways me more than comfort of the smaller E-Ink technology readers, and I’ll probably buy an iPad for now. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t buy an E-Ink reader too, especially if they become a universal reader. I’m greatly disappointed that most books I’m reading right now aren’t available for any ebook reader. That sucks. But we’re living in transitional times for books and times will change soon.