Monday, September 7, 2009

eReader updates

Delayed eBook related news:

Two new Sony Readers
were released with surprisingly "little" fanfare, considering the amount of press the Kindle 2 received back in the day. Most articles dealing with the Sonys focused on how it fared against the Kindle, seeing Amazon's device as the standard and Sony's as the attempted competition. The PRS-300 is the pocket "budget" Reader, compact and limited in terms of functions (no music) and space (no additional memory) while the PRS-600 is the updated touch-screen version of the PRS-700. Little has emerged about the quality of the PRS-600's screen to counter complaints that the 700's screen was not very comfortable for reading. The 300 is comparatively cheap at $199, the 600 matching the Kindle at $299. Sony continues to battle Amazon by offering its Readers across the globe, hoping to establish itself in the U.K. as the standard eReader.

The same day the new Readers were released, Sony announced an even newer model, the "Daily Edition" which is meant to counter Amazon's DX. Here Sony went for the kill, offering a large touch-screen (take that, Kindle!) in addition to wireless access (seemingly U.S. only, disappointingly), thus "getting rid" of the two main eReader complaints. While this PRS-2121 sounds ideal for many, the actual specifications are still unknown and with a release date around December, it is unlikely more will be said of the matter for some time. Its price aims to once again undercut Amazon's $489 DX at $399. Not cheap, but it looks fairly impressive in the meantime.

Meanwhile, a report has found that even Sony's price cutting isn't enough for most people.

For its report, Forrester surveyed more than 4,700 online consumers, who reported that the average amount they would be willing to spend on an e-reader was $91. The average price at which these consumers said they would not consider buying such a device was $151.

Indeed. Those who feel that eReaders are too expensive are not alone, particularly when one takes into account the price of eBooks. The report goes on to suggest that prices will slowly fall (as was the case with Apple's iPhone) until they reach a stable point. For my part, I certainly hope so.

And as if to add more to the discussion, a study by Cleantech suggested that eReaders are the environmental way to go. (hat tip BookFinder)

The report indicates that, on average, the carbon emitted in the lifecycle of a Kindle is fully offset after the first year of use. The report, authored by Emma Ritch, states: "Any additional years of use result in net carbon savings, equivalent to an average of 168 kg of CO2 per year (the emissions produced in the manufacture and distribution of 22.5 books)."

The report says what some have felt for some time: it is better for avid readers who care about the environment to splurge once and save millions of trees. It's a convincing argument in favor of eReaders, particularly for environmentalists. A device (though plastic with a fairly short lifespan) capable of preventing needless paper waste and reducing use of the quite polluting process of paper-making... sounds good.

But that's not how everyone sees it. Alex Salkever of the DailyFinance says no, eReaders aren't actually that green. Not only do most readers not actually read the "recommended" 22 books a year to counter the production, but the average lifespan of an eReader is much shorter than the report's assumption of 4 years. Salkever estimates that most people switch devices like iPods and eReaders once every 2 years, thus weakening Cleantech's argument. Points on Salkever's end can be argued as well: lots of consumers getting eReaders are getting them because they do buy lots of books per year. Or perhaps not everyone shelling out $300 for a device won't just replace it two years later because a newer one has come out. Lots to think about.

Finally, a new standard price for eBooks has emerged and I'm not liking it very much. Who else feels $9.99 for an eBook is a bit much, particularly when I can't access it without the device that reads it? I've often thought that $9.99 for a paperback is normal; this seems to me a good excuse to push paperback prices higher and hardback costs through the roof. Yet publishers complain that these prices will kill them...

Much to see and discuss on all fronts. eBook/eReader questions are popping up again and again, proving that there's still a lot to learn and figure out.


  1. very informative article -- thanks! the daily edition has me the most excited -- i love the idea of the public library connection, i think this technology will be a great tool in making information accessible and affordable. you might like this article on electronic readers and how they are perceived in the marketplace:

  2. Great post! I agree with you that the entire eBook structure is still very much up-in-the-air at this point. I'm going to stay on the sidelines and continue with regular paper books for the time being until a clear, winning formula develops. I don't want to be stuck with the ebook version of Betamax.

  3. This is useful information, thank you. I'm still waffling over an ereader. I'd like one, especially for all the free classics I'd like to download and read on something other than my computer...but at the same time, I don't see myself buying loads of new books. Yet, I'd like to save some paper...

  4. I enjoyed this post about ereaders. There is so much to look into with all the models available. I prefer real books, but I was considering a Kindle to read in bed with at night without a light, but then I found out there was no backlight feature on the Kindle. That would be a biggie for me. Sony does have a backlight, but it's a pretty expensive gadget as you pointed out.

  5. Sony hasn't been making any effort to add new magazines and newspaper to their very scant collection of offerings. If you complain about their lack of variety they don't allow it to appear in their review sections. But that's OK since it's apparent that Sony wants to give up the market to Amazon, B+N, and Apple.


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