MACOLDIE has now survived six whole months without opening a single book. By book I mean dead-tree book with old-fashioned paper pages. I never thought I would be able to say that, but I have to admit that I have been delighted with my Sony eBook Reader. It's a simple beast with few bells and whistles but it does what it is supposed to do: provide an easy, enjoyable and reliable reading experience.
Despite my reservations (posted earlier under the eBook Readers tag) about the British Waterstone's book store linked to the Sony, I have managed to find enough reading material to keep me interested and out of physical book stores. Incidentally, I have browsed the US Sony book site and it looks much easier to use. For one thing, unlike the Waterstones' site, it is devoted solely to eBooks and you don't get sent down cul-de-sacs populated with real books.
I equipped the reader with a flexible rubber cover and the Sony has proved remarkable strong and resilient. I throw it in my bag wherever I go. It weighs less than a paperback and is much thinner, so it is easier to pack and carry around. It has reduced my airline bag weight considerably because, previously, I had a stock of books in the case, plus one to read on the flight. And, of course, if you are near the end of a book, you need a second one in your carry-on case to avoid being left without reading material. With an eBook reader you have just one book-sized unit and simply press a button to find another book to read.
eBook readers are still in their infancy and we can expect to see more developments over the next twelve months. I am now a firm believer in the future of the eBook and I dare to predict that the printed (dead-tree) book, particularly for novels, will gradually go the way of the CD. Record shops throughout the world are at the moment under threat from MP3 downloads and I believe we will soon begin to see the same effect in the book world. I have not bought a CD for maybe four years and I also now download all my video media.
A year ago an eBook reader was seen as geeky and with only a niche future. People no longer snigger and I find my Sony gets approving glance wherever I go. On airlines, in restaurants and cafes, I have lost count of the number of people who have come up to ask what it is that I am staring at. Invariably they are impressed and say they would like one. Here in Greece I have never seen anyone else with an eBook, so I am constantly asked about the Sony.
What the eBook world needs is an iPod revolution. The Amazon Kindle has a big following in the USA but it is not yet available in Europe. Perhaps the Kindle is the iPod of the book world, but it is too early to say. It is certainly bigger and less pocketable than the Sony and I would find this a disadvantage. But a world-beating eBook reader needs the same sort of marketing innovation that Apple has shown with the iPod and iTunes. Who do we know who owns the trademark iBook?