Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sound Off on eBooks and eReaders, Part II

Curse you, Steve Jobs!  You and your deep understanding of American laziness!

Some context: a while back, I posted on what I considered to be the serious shortcomings of Apple's iPad as an e-reader.  You can find the entire bit here, but the arguments essentially boil down to three points: (1) it's too heavy; (2) it's too blurry; and (3) it becomes a mirror in sunlight.  I've added another since that initial post (thanks to The Reading Ape's $100 book-buying challenge), which is that the selection of available books is seriously lacking.  All of which is true, true, true.

What I failed to grasp in those early days was that the iPad is hands down the most versatile and convenient appliance that I own, and that convenience extends to the purchase of e-books.  I believe that I also failed to understand the depth of my commitment to laziness, especially after 8 pm.  Here's a scenario: I'm in bed at night, fiddling with the iPad, and perusing my fellow bloggers' latest words of wisdom, when I happen upon a review that piques my interest.  I decide to buy The Ask by Sam Lipsyte.  Now, I have three options: (1) write it down somewhere so that I can remember it on my next trip to the local indie, Books & Books; (2) head on over to Amazon, where I can order it and wait a couple of days for it to arrive; or (3) download it to either my Sony eReader or the iPad.  I decide on number 3 simply because I have neither an excellent memory nor superior organizational skills, and I am fairly certain that the scrap of paper will be lost in any case.  As for Amazon, I like to get my hands on interesting works while they are still of interest to me, which may or may not extend beyond my Adult ADD threshold of 60 minutes.  Moreover, number 3 is cheaper then numbers 1 and 2, and lord knows I'm cheap. 

As for the choice between the Sony eReader and the iPad, the Sony requires me to lug out my laptop, go to the Sony eReader Store, find the title, download the book, connect my eReader, and download the book to the eReader, all before I can start reading.  The iPad requires exactly two steps: a search of the title in the iBook Store and a press of the buy button.  Did I mention that I'm already in bed?  I did?  Did I also mention that I'm exceedingly lazy?  Good.  Then you can see where this is going.

Even though it's too heavy to read comfortably, even though it's blurry and hard on the eyes, even though it's impossible to read at the beach, and even though the selection is miniscule, the iPad's convenience and my laziness have combined to put it over the top as my reading device of choice.  Even I can't believe it. 

In sum, then, I believe that in these lines I have definitively established that I am often wrong, I am exceedingly cheap, I am extremely lazy, and ... all of these things make me a big fan of the iPad, even for e-books.  I have to imagine that the experience is similar for all the Kindle owners out there.  I'd love to hear from some of you, if only to share the shame that this realization has brought me.          


  1. I have a nook, and I've had that same experience. It's far too easy to search for the title and press the buy button on the nook. I can't even count how many books I've bought that I wouldn't have otherwise if I didn't have that stinkin' convenience little device.

  2. Your mention of the fact that the books you can buy are severely limited is the exact reason I don't own one of the e-readers. I did a little research before I went out and bought one, just to see how many of my books for my blog were on it, and hardly any were.

    That being said, my dad LOVES his Nook that we got him for Father's day. He gets all of his newspapers on it. He also tends to read new bestsellers so it's right up his alley.

  3. Ah ... the Nook. I should have included it alongside the Kindle. I understand that, technologically, it has even more bells and whistles.

    SocrMom78, it is a little frustrating. I find that you can generally get any book recently published by the major houses, as well as any book on which the copyright has lapsed, on the Sony. The iPad is much, much more limited--but I'm guessing that's just a matter of time. I'm not sure if you followed The Reading Ape's $100 experiment, but I found that I could get six of seven titles for the Sony (at a lower cost than anywhere else). On the other hand, I could only get two of seven titles on the iPad, which made comparison impossible.

  4. Patrick-
    This is fantastic. I was thinking of following up the $100 experiment with an addendum about e-readers, but, not owning one myself, I didn't really know how to start. Two quick questions:

    1. Are the Kindle prices in the same ballpark as the Sony prices or not?

    2. I know you can read Kindle-formatted e-books on the iPad, but do I understand you right that you can't read the Sony formatted e-books on it? I thought I read that the iPad could handle more formats than some of the other e-readers, but I could have that wrong. I am circling around an iPad, so I appreciate the perspective.


  5. Skip, As far as I know, the Kindle prices are generally equivalent to or lower than the Sony prices. Last time that I checked, I could not find a Sony eReader application for the iPad. To be honest, I had completely forgotten that Amazon had released a Kindle app that lets you read Kindle books on the iPad. Thanks for the reminder. I picked up the app this evening, and the Kindle books look as good (or as bad) as the iBooks. But, as your comment implies, the selection is far, far greater. I alsi verified that you can get American Salvage for Kindle. This means that you can do a true compare for ebooks. I'm guessing that the total will come out at around $80 or so. Maybe this is worth a follow up post? In any case, I really enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work.

  6. Patrick-
    $80 for all seven? That does suggest a substantial savings over the least expensive option for buying new physical books. It probably isn't really an option for book-as-object fetishists like me, but it is definitely eye-opening. The killer function for me would be periodicals: my stack of New Yorkers, NY Times, Atlantic Montlies, etc would be better placed in a hard drive I think. Thanks for checking, very, very interesting.

  7. I always thought the iPad would be great for e-book reading, which I haven't really gotten into yet. Now, I'm torn!

  8. I have an iPad - I love my iPad - but it is insanely overpriced for what it can (or I should say can't do)
    I also have a Kindle and I know many people like it better for reading than the iPad but the Kindle bothers me more. It kills my eyes reading the small flat grey screen. I guess I like the bright and shiny of the iPad. I never bought books directly from the Kindle either. I would go to my computer to purchase and then download.
    I use the Kindle app on the iPad.
    like I said overpriced but I love it for the same reasons you mentioned.

  9. I used to be an avid reader, but that changed once my two little boys entered the picture. First of all, I don't have time. Second of all, going to the bookstore is not what it used to be. Now, I have a Kindle. I have to say, it's a joy to be reading again. The easy and instant access to books is great.

  10. Everything you just said is exactly why I read books in my iPhone. I am lazy and cheap and can carry hundreds of books in my pocket. Perfect

  11. @Ape, I also read recently that Rupert Murdoch is putting out a periodical specifically for the iPad. Please let me know what you think when (if?) you make the jump.

    @Elle, if you had asked me two months ago, I would have advised you to buy one of the other readers. Now, I've been beaten into iPad submission.

    @Karen, I'm surprised (relieved?) to read that you've had trouble with the Kindle. Everyone tells me that the text is extremely crisp. Maybe the size is a factor? While I still have problems with the iPad (and it is expensive), at this point it's become my instrument of choice.

    @Trina, I used to be skeptical of the ebook "revolution." Now, I'm on board. The convenience is too great to stem the tide.

    @Becky, the Ape told me that the iPhone resolution is twice what the iPad resolution is. It must be a joy to read. Maybe that's the next step for me ...

  12. Thought I'd comment in order to save you some money :) I have an iPad and instead of ordering books on a whim, whenever I see a review I like I write down the title using the "notes" app which comes with the iPad. Then I go to the library and check them out. I'm selective about books I order on my iPad Kindle app, because I know I could just go crazy overboard. Gotta love the library :)