The e-book dilemma

Posted on Sep 5, 2010
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I want an e-book reader! I really do, but it’s not easy. There have been devices for electronic books for many, many years now but the whole story only started to become interesting when Amazon entered the market and Sony finally put some useful devices out. For a few months now I’ve started to only buy electronic technical books anymore simply because the price of the paperbacks versions is killing me. Besides, it’s kind of useful to have full-text search on things like that ;-)

So a week ago when Amazon started shipping the Kindle3, I really wanted to get one and I still do. But there is a problem: All the books I have are either PDFs or EPUBs. And all the publishers I want to get books from publish PDFs and EPUBs. So I have more or less two options right now:

  1. Go with a Kindle (with its really gorgeous price tag) and use something like Calibre to convert all my books to .mobi or go with the PDFs or
  2. get the new Sony PRS-650 when it comes out in a month for nearly double the price.

Luckily, this year’s IFA was full of new e-book readers ranging from some weird cooperations like txtr + Asus (Asus couldn’t find someone else, could they), Thalia with their Oyo and iRiver showing off the Cover Story as well as Acer bringing out their own e-book reader. But honestly, so far only the Sony device and the Kindle are real options for me.

While the Amazon device doesn’t really support the format I want, the community is large enough to get around this limitation. Also, Amazon is effectively the one source for printed books for me. I think it’s been nearly two years now that I’ve bought a book somewhere else (not counting conferences) and before that it was nearly 10 years. So if I’m ever tempted to buy something DRM’d it would be from Amazon, not Thalia and don’t even get me started on txtr.

That said, buying DRM’d content is a last resort and a way I don’t have to take right now. Only, once I want also get all my Star Trek books online, I effectively have to go with Amazon. The whole Adobe DRM scheme is simply too smelly for me.

But why no iPad? Simple: The iPad is too large and too heavy. While I really applaud Apple on supporting EPUB and combined with the Kindle app having the most range of supported content, the price point is just way beyond the sweet-spot for me. Those 139 USD are pretty much there. Even Sony’s 250 EUR is far more attractive than Apple’s 500 EUR. Hm… I could buy a Kindle and a Sony e-Reader …

Why can’t Amazon simply also provide EPUB support on the Kindle :-((( In the end I’ll probably just wait until October to see what’s on the market after Frankfurt.