Sunday, June 13, 2010

E-asy Reader

The e-reader/ebook market is going in some interesting directions. The Borders chain is having financial problems, and one of the issues appears to be that it doesn't have an associated e-reading device, as Barnes & Noble does with the Nook. (It does seek the Sony Reader devices in it's stores.). Amazon and Barnes & Noble have expanded the points of sale for their respective devices; while a short time ago you could find them only at the respective stores, now Best Buy carries the Nook and Target carries the Kindle. Meanwhile, the Nook has expanded its functions. It now provides simple games (chess and sudoku), and a bizarre rudimentary web browser that is in black and white except for the small portion in the color touch screen. B & N has also been bribing Nook owners (and others with the B & N reader app) with free book downloads and food goodies at B & N stores.

The main force behind these changes is likely the iPad, on which I'm typing these words. According to Steve Jobs, the iBooks online store now accounts for some 22% of ebook sales -- rather surprising, because the selection in the iBook store is smaller than that on Amazon, and the prices often higher. Both Amazon and B & N have released apps for the iPad that enable folks to read any kind of ebook, whatever the seller, on the iPad. I'm quite impressed with the B & N reader app, which allows readers to select not only the font but also the margins of their books; see large-sized color covers; look up words on Google and Wikipedia; and share books between the Nook and iPad, as well as lend them to others with the app.

One of the biggest advantages of the iPad is color. Books with color photos show up in color on the iPad. So far, few graphic novels have appeared to exploit this capability. (Some manga creators and other GN publishers have also created standalone apps for the iPad that contain a single GN, along with special effects such as multilingual settings.). And magazines and newspapers look far better on the iPad than on other ereaders.

I'm not ready to ditch my Nook. It's still lighter and more portable than the iPad; has a longer battery life; and is easier to read for an extended period. But I'm interested to see where the ebook market goes -- especially when other tablet computers with features similar to the iPad begin to compete.

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