Sony has released their new Sony Reader
, which is another eBook effort announced earlier this year at CES. I like the idea of an electronic book that I can just add new titles to over time. But there are two issues that have typically doomed such efforts to failure.
For portable devices such as the Sony Reader, the form factor and reading experience are critical. I haven't seen the Sony Reader up close and in person, but past efforts have been lame. It is very hard to create something that is as easy to use and read as a traditional book, especially a paperback. Light, portable, and legible, the traditoinal paperback is a high standard to meet. In the past, such eBook efforts haven't even come close to providing a decent reading experience, especially when combined with the need to keep the device charged.
But assuming that the Sony Reader provides an adequate experience, the thing that has always killed eBooks is the cost of the eBooks themselves. We hear all the time that the cost of publishing books is extremely high, to the point that some will say the publishing industry is in crisis. I looked at the Content Store for the Reader and found that at best, the e-versions of books are the same price as their paper counterparts, and in some cases, cost twice as much!!! For example, Dan Simmon's excellent Illium
novel cost me about $8 dollars at Barnes and Noble. I can keep it forever, take it anywhere. At the Sony Content store, the eBook version of Simmons' novel was a whopping $15.96!!! WTF!?!?! How can the eversion of a book cost twice what the paper version does? Add to that a reading experience that is less than ideal (most likely - could be wrong), this effort is doomed just like the previous ones.
If you want me to give a great reading experience, you need to entice me with cheap books. I'm not even mentioning that the Sony Reader alone costs $350 - or the approximate cost of 40 paperbacks. Sheesh. Traditional books will be around for a long, long time.