Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Worst Idea to Come to eReaders (So Far)

Even my favorite bit of outdoor Trouble knows this is full of FAIL.
I'm admittedly divided on the subject of eReaders.  At the well-respected University Press where I spend my working days I've been involved with getting our content ported over to eBook formats.  I recognize a great many people love the convenience of eReaders (several people on the bus ride to and from work happily walk on each day with their slim, lightweight Kindles at the ready) and I can see them becoming a much better way for college students to carry around text books without the intimidating weight restrictions.

I borrowed a first-generation Kindle for a weekend to see what the reading experience was like.  Overall, it was... okay.  Not awful, but not so great I would consider buying one.  I could appreciate the convenience factor, but the look and feel of the Kindle just wasn't right for me.  I prefer my book to be bound collections of dead trees with words printed in real ink, not e-ink (whatever that is).

My wife has even talked to me about the Kindle.  Her interest is primarily ease-of-use in terms of the big non-fiction history books she checks out from the library -- wouldn't a Kindle be easier to use?  Well, yes, I have responded, but only when Amazon decides to unlock the Kindle to allow for library-style "checking out" of books.  (Currently it doesn't.  The Sony eReader does, as does the Apple iPad.)

The other catch, for me, is the cost.  Convenience doesn't equate with the$140+ price tag.  ($190 if you want the 3G version.)  So, how could Amazon possibly reach out to reluctant, potential customers like me?

Introducing the "Kindle with Special Offers"!  Special Offers sure sound special, don't they?  Sure they do!  Until you realize that the "special offers" are really just advertisements.

The Canadian Broadcasting news service quotes Kindle director Jay Marine as saying, "We think customers are going to love it."

Really? Customers are going to love seeing advertisements when they use their Kindles and through "sponsored screen savers"?

Even if I wasn't the kind of person who complains bitterly and LOUDLY at a movie theater when they dare to show commercials before the movie trailers ("I DIDN'T PAY TWENTY BUCKS TO SIT HERE AND WATCH COMMERCIALS!") I would still have major issues with an eReader that treated me in any way as merely a source for more and more money.

Reading is a one of our last, great escapes from the world around us -- a world that is constantly vying for our attention and, frequently, for our dollars.  What in the world would make Amazon think people would be willing to pay $25 less for their eReader hardware provided it came with commercials?

Am I just being a grumpy curmudgeon?  Would you be willing to buy a subsidized eReader if it came with advertisements?

-- Tom


And don't forget: to celebrate the seven remaining lives of our wonderful cat, Jacques, I'm giving away a copy of one of my favorite MG books, HERE BE MONSTERS (in bound collections of dead tree format!).  Just follow my blog and leave a comment here telling me you'd like to be eligible to win!