I really like the idea of eBook readers and I've been following the progress of a number of them for a while now (There's an excellent resource over at the MobileRead site).
But there's one glaringly obvious reason why they won't succeed for recreational book readers... which is the absurd pricing of eBooks.
The most recent evidence of this is the launch of the Sony reader in the UK. I had a look round their site and all looks well. The price is reasonable (£199) and the product looks nice. To get a feel for the books available I went to Waterstones UK website, who are Sonys eBook partner for the launch..
What I found really does surprise me, it's like the book publishers want this to fail.
First book on the page, The Private Patient by P.D James. Waterstones eBook price £12.92... Amazon.co.uk's price for the Hardback version..... £9.49 !
So they're seriously expecting people to pay 36% more for an eBook which is a digital file, easily produced, with no shipping or production costs and with DRM on it, as against a hard back book that could be resold once you've read it.
Looking through some of the other prices, this doesn't appear to be a limited aberration either, the differential is higher for hard back books (a concept which makes zero sense in an eBook world) but the prices seem uniformly higher for eBooks than physical ones.
Now I do see that for some applications where physical books are impractical eBooks , whatever the cost, could make sense.
But for recreational reading, the chances that large numbers of book lovers (many of whom are attached to the experience of physical books anyway) will change for a more expensive, more restrictive, electronic implementation are pretty slim!


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