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eBooks - What's Holding You Back? 589

blueZ3 asks: "It seems that the readers of Slashdot are the most likely early adopters of electronic books, but from posts I've seen here, it doesn't appear that many on Slashdot are e-book fans. In the hopes of sparking a discussion, I'd like to ask what keeps you personally from reading e-books?"
"Here are some of my guesses as to why people haven't taken up e-Books:

1. Form factor: They just prefer the feel and 'interface' of a paper book.

2. Lack of a compelling device (or perhaps lack of convergence): They don't own a reader (other than a PC or notebook) and can't take them with them.

3. Lack of content: Books they are interested in aren't available in electronic format

4. Distribution model: They don't like the DRM scheme their favorite publisher offers, or are otherwise unhappy with current offerings.

Maybe lively discussion from a prospective set of customers might spur the creator of the next generation of electronic book devices. Too bad the name 'iBook' is already taken."

What reason do you have for not taking up e-Books? Are they listed above or are there other reasons that you would like to add?
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eBooks - What's Holding You Back?

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  • by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <{akaimbatman} {at} {gmail.com}> on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:46PM (#14891315) Homepage Journal
    I'd like to ask what keeps you personally from reading e-books?

    Lack of content and overreaching DRM. The selection of devices doesn't help either.

    I'm a big fan of Baen's [baen.com] online books. They're quick to purchase, and simple to download to a Palm Pilot. And should you need to file again, you can easily redownload it from your "personal library" feature on Baen's site. Not to mention that they give away free books [baen.com] to get you hooked on new series.

    Downloading to my Sony Clie was the perfect way to read eBooks, too. The backlight was pure white, the fonts were crisp, and the scroll-wheel on the side meant that I could hold the device in a pistol-grip in my palm rather than balancing it between my thumb and finger-tips so that I can thumb the up/down buttons on the front. (Sony screwed this up in later models, BTW. They replace the up/down buttons with a wheel, and eliminate the wheel on the side.)

    The Clie wasn't so good for technical books (the layout is screwed), but for fiction it was great! I could stand on the bus and read without the difficulties of trying to turn the page on a paperback with one hand. Plus, the Clie fit in my pocket much easier than a paperback, and wouldn't lose its place when I needed to stash it away quick so that I don't miss my stop.

    The only real problem I had was that I ran out of content. Baen has some great books, but they're no Simon & Schuster. I looked into other sites, but it was just too much pain and anguish for me to want to bother with. Most sites had a poor selection (though I have noted that selection has been improving lately), limited you to DRM formats (most of which don't work on a Palm Pilot), overcharged for their titles, and just generally hassled the consumer as if he was a theif who should feel honored to have limited access to stuff he paid for.

    Thanks, but no thanks.

    More publishers should pay attention to Jim Baen. Not only does he release titles you buy in open formats; not only does he give away free books [baen.com]; but he bundles CDs with many hardcover books that are chock-full of eBooks (such as the entire Honor Harrington series). In addition, the license on the CDs state that you can make copies and give them away [thefifthimperium.com] to friends and family. No restrictions, as long as you're not making a profit.

    Now THAT, is how you grow a business. Not by treating the customers like criminals, but by treating them like valued friends. =)
    • by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:55PM (#14891409) Homepage
      I have the exact same issue. I used to read on my Palm and now I read on my MS-based Smartphone. All the books bought for the Palm are unaccessible from there. This is just unacceptable.

      So I keep reading on my phone, and instead of dl'ing and paying, I dl and do not pay. That way I have TXT files that I can view everywhere.

      Sad but unfortunately true of all form of media distribution over the internet. When will they learn? We WILL download for it is so much more convenient. We WILL NOT download over-crippled formats because it removes half of the convenience.
    • by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <DStaal@usa.net> on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:06PM (#14891504)
      Take a look at Fictionwise [fictionwise.com]. They have a very good selection, much of which (though not all) is avalible in multiple DRM-free formats. They also let you redownload files if you lose them for any reason. (Though if you bought a 'secure' file you can't change DRM schemes on a file. Other files you can switch formats with impunity.)

      I make a point never to buy anything that's got DRM from them, but I still am able to get loads of books and stories from them.

      At the moment they've got the Nebula award nominees for free...

      I do most of my reading on my Clie at this point, with books from Fictionwise and Baen. (And some from the Gutenburg project.)
      • >I make a point never to buy anything that's got DRM from them,
        how? I looked for 15 minutes for a book from them that came in enough formats it had to be DRM free... wrong. at least 6 months ago if it was possible to find DRM free books their, it wasn't obvious.

        I am not completly anti DRM, but I got a pocket PC app that plays many formats, I see the same format available at fictionwise, no go. I don't blame them, the formats need to have a seperate format name for DRM'd, and non-DRM content. The DRM
    • by KDan ( 90353 )
      FYI, for the "precarious balancing between thumb and forefinger" problem, I've found that eReader (eReader.com) allows you to have the PDA display the text upside down, which means you can resume the pistol grip and use the thumb on the buttons which are now at the subjective top of the PDA.

    • E-Book readers (Score:3, Informative)

      by WindBourne ( 631190 )
      Last year, I bought an e-book reader for my ex-wife. She is an avid reader. I thought that I saw that it could be made to work with Linux easily. What a joke that was. It was wasted money. Now, I tell ppl to not buy a dedicated reader until they sort out the issues over DRM and clients. Sadly, That has cost that company about 25 sales, with more to come.
    • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:29PM (#14891745) Homepage Journal
      Interestingly enough, more publishers are starting to pay attention to Baen.

      Or at least Tor Books is, as they're going to start publishing ebooks through Webscriptions [terrania.us] right along with Baen. Including the ebook that I reviewed for Slashdot a couple of years back, A Fire Upon the Deep [slashdot.org]. There's a great quote from Tor's senior editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, about why they came to this decision:
      We've tested a lot of e-book waters, including various cockamamie schemes involving overpriced e-books laden with DRM.

      Oddly enough, a lot of those "books" didn't even sell enough copies to pay for their file-conversion costs. Meanwhile, it hasn't escaped our notice that Jim Baen has been doing something that works, that people like, and that makes money. I'm delighted to be doing this pilot program; I think Jim has been clueful on this issue for a long time, while almost everyone else in publishing has been staggering around on stage hitting one another over the head with inflated pig bladders.
      Funny thing, I was looking back over that review I wrote, right before I discovered this article. (Too bad I didn't notice this article earlier so I could have gotten this post listed earlier without having to piggy-back on a high-ranked one, but oh well. :) In that review, referring to eReader/Palm Digital Media's DRM'd version, I wrote (emphasis added for this quotation):
      It would have been nice to have A Fire Upon the Deep in open HTML like Baen's e-books, but it is understandable that Dr. Vinge (or his publisher) might have preferred for the book to be digitally protected. Since that is unlikely to change anytime soon, there is little point to letting the perfect be the enemy of the good; as digitally-protected e-book formats go, the PDM format is actually quite decent.
      And two years later, here it is changing, and A Fire Upon the Deep is going to be one of the Tor titles coming out in Webscriptions. Guess I'll be buying a third e-copy of the book after all--but that one should be the last one I ever need to purchase.

      It's quite exciting that Tor, who publishes 300 new titles yearly as opposed to Bean's 50 or so, and across a broader spectrum of SF than Baen's military/political focus, is taking this step. Maybe more will follow suit. We can only hope.
      • Now that is really great news! You should probably see if you can get that as a front page Slashdot story. It's certainly worth shouting from the rooftops!
      • more publishers are starting to pay attention to Baen. Or at least Tor Books is

        Jim Baen ran the SF line at Tor before he started his own company. Publishing is a small world; SF publishing even more so.

    • by superpenguin ( 595439 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:44PM (#14891879)
      Amen, amen, and amen. All the other publishers should take a cue from Baen Books.

      The vast majority of my leisure reading is SF, and a hefty chunk of that is books published by Baen. There are several reasons for this.

      Probably the first is simply that Baen publishes some of my favorite authors (Lois McMaster Bujold, Charles Sheffield). Also, they've done a great job of republishing some of the older stuff that you literally cannot find anywhere (James Schmitz) and more recent out-of-print things (Timothy Zahn's "Blackcollar" and "Cobra" series). Another thing that Baen does that I don't see a lot of publishers doing is printing a lot of omnibus editions. Sure, you'll get it for really popular series from other publishers, like HHGttG, but Baen does it a lot more. If I can get an entire series in one book (Zahn's "Cobra Trilogy"), or a longer series in just a few books instead of half a bookshelf's worth (Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan series), I'm happier.

      As far as eBooks go, you can't beat Baen's approach. No DRM. At all. You can download any of the eBooks that you've purchased as many times as you want in a couple of formats, including HTML, so you can pretty much read it on any device you want. And of course, the free library is a nice incentive. I've purchased probably 10 eBooks from Baen over the past 5 years, but I've downloaded scads of things from their free library and gotten moderately hooked on a number of different authors. And, amazingly enough, I have then gone on to purchase books by those authors. It's not rocket science. If I can check out an author or series for free, I am likely to read more of their stuff if I like it, and if I don't, I won't be mad that I spent money on it.

      One other thing that Baen does right is they actually sell their eBooks for less than the dead-tree versions. This is a complete no-brainer, but I have been amazed how many times I've seen eBooks listed for more than the price of a paperback. That I just don't understand at all.

      Now, regarding the actual question. Why haven't I purchased a lot of eBooks from Baen (or anywhere else)?

      I read eBooks on my Psion Revo, using MobiPocket Reader. It's fairly convenient (fits in a pants pocket, although it's a little longer than I like in that regard). It has a nice, crisp screen (no backlight, but it's readable in fairly low light and the screen isn't too reflective). Still, I'd prefer to read a dead tree. Aside from eyestrain issues (the Psion has a nice screen, but it can't beat paper), I'm likely not the only one who's going to be reading the book. Now, there are no DRM restrictions on the Baen books, but there are practical considerations. At this point in my life (poor grad student), if I purchase a book at full cover price (which I try not to--used book stores are a favorite haunt), it's likely going to be something that both I and my wife want to read (fortunately, while our tastes in fiction are not identical, there's a very wide overlap). She doesn't want to read an eBook. We only have one PDA between to the two of us, and it's mine and she doesn't care for reading on her laptop, which I can understand as I don't either. If I can get the book for free, I'll certainly read it on my Revo, but if I'm going to spending the money, I'll plunk down the extra $3 (seems to be about the difference in price between a paperback and eBook at Baen) to get the physical copy that anybody can read.

      Now, if it's a book that I really want that my wife is going to have no interest in reading, I'll go ahead and save the $3 and get the eBook. I'm cheap. However, as the parent poster has mentioned, Baen is not the entire publishing world, so there are plenty of books that I want to read that somebody else published. And I'm not likely to purchase an eBook from a different publisher due to DRM/format restrictions or price.

      So to sum up:

      If a book I want is not published by Baen, I'm not buying an an eBook. If it is published by Baen, I'll download it free in a snap, but otherwise I'll only buy it as an eBook if I'm the only one who's likely to want to read it.

    • by iggy_mon ( 737886 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:59PM (#14891980) Homepage
      i like to use www.memoware.com

      so many classics, so little time.

      bonus: they have a nice, active community that adds books all the time to the collection. you can join and add books if you wish.

      did i forget to mention that their books are free. if you go to their sister site you can get recent releases. they have regular sales, backups for your purchaese, etc.

      i've read many, MANY classics that would have cost me a fortune otherwise for several years now. extra bonus: many of their books are available in multiple formats.


    • by SquadBoy ( 167263 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:01PM (#14891993) Homepage Journal
      To quote from David Drake's newsletter that came out yesterday.

      "All my Tor titles with electronic versions are going to appear as Baen Webscriptions [http://www.webscription.net/%5D [webscription.net]. This is due in no small measure to Geoffrey Kidd, who did the scanning and proofing on a couple and was the conduit to Baen Books on all. Thank you, Geoffrey.

      It's still up in the air as to whether electronic versions of all Tor titles are going to go up as Webscriptions. The CFO of Tor's parent company appeared to have killed the deal because Jim Baen puts books up without encryption (which I've been told to call DRM, a stupid acronym for a stupid concept). Yes, that's true: Baen Webscriptions can be read on any browser than can get you to the site. It apparently doesn't compute in an accountant's mind that ease of using Jim's system might have something to do with Jim's electronic income being well into six figures and everybody else's electronic income being squat. Now, tentatively, the deal is back on.

      Given that we live in a world where people blow up places of worship in the name of religion, I guess this degree of narrowness shouldn't surprise me. I think it's all right for me to be sad, though.

      By the way, my books are going up because I asked Tom Doherty, not the CFO. Tom is a very smart man."
    • Wrong question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Roadkills-R-Us ( 122219 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:08PM (#14892074) Homepage
      To misquote the dead professor in _I, Robot_ (the movie):

      ``That, detective, is the wrong question.''

      Why *should* I take up ebooks? What is the compelling case? Until there is a compelling case *for* switching, the reasons against aren't crucial, IMO.

      I don't see the compelling case. There are environmental issues, but the biggest ones there have more to do with our book economy, which encourages inrcedible amounts of waste. If we only printed books that were worth having, instead of mass marketing thousands of worthless titles a month and having to dispose of the rest, there would be *far* less waste. (Yes, I realize we can have a huge debate about how to determine what books should be printed, and that ebooks would solve this; my point is simply that there are other ways to solve it as well.)

      For me, personally? I like having some things online. But sometimes I want those things in paper as well as online, so offer me paper, digital, or both.

      When ebooks have the convenience and price of paper books, ask me again.

      Having said that, I will now answer the wrong question. 8^) Not exhaustively, but just some major issues for me off the top of my head.

      I can read a book in the bathtub. Are any of the ebook readers waterproof? None I've heard of. (Then again, I don't pay that much attention. That compelling case thing.)

      I can drop a book almost anywhere but into a fire or vat of acid and it'll survive. But the ebook isn't as hardy. (At least anything I can afford.)

      I can loan, give or resell *any* book easily. With the legal nigtmares today over DRM, copyrights and everything else, I have no ieda what I can do with ebooks, and the rules change from title to title.

      I don't get eyestrain from spending hours with books, as a rule. I might get a headache or cramps form sitting in one position, but that's easily solved. That's not the case with any sort of digital display I have used.

      In many cases, I can spend more money and buy a book that should outlast several generaltions of my family and appeals to several of my senses, or I can buy a cheap paperback that will fall apart after a couple of readings and has less sensory appeal, or I can buy something inbetween. I like that flexibility.

      I like the smell of a new book. Build that into your reader, OK?

      A book is stone simple for serial reading, and not that hard (if less handy) for jumping around in. Any ebook UI will have to be as easy to use for the base case (serial reading, saving your spot, etc), and better for the other case (reread earlier section, find random stuff). Both are fairly easy to do, but being able to do both well and easily isn't as easy.

      I can grab a book to use as a writing surface. I do this a lot, as it turns out.

      I can take a book almost anywhere. I can read almost anywhere. While there might be places an ebook works better (rainproof it and you will have started on that compelling case), there are still plenty a book wins for me. Remember that bathtub thing? And a book won't normally slow you down getting through airport security, whereas electronic devices sometimes do (I have experience with this!)

      In short, while there are a couple of advantages to ebooks, they don't even begin to make a compelling case for me. Perhaps the above will help you understand why.
      • Re:Wrong question (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ford Prefect ( 8777 )
        I like the smell of a new book. Build that into your reader, OK?

        I like the smell of old books too.

        I have numerous books on my desk right now. There's a copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four I bought in 1999. The edges of the pages are slightly yellowed (cheap paperback and all) - but by book terms, it's pretty new. In eBook terms, it's prehistoric.

        There are two older books on my desk. One was printed in 1885. If anything, it's in better condition than the paperback. Ants, Bees and Wasps by Sir John Lubbock. There's
      • Re:Wrong question (Score:4, Insightful)

        by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @04:18PM (#14893465)

        Why *should* I take up ebooks? What is the compelling case?

        E-books do have two real advantages. You can read them in the dark without a light source. You can, theoretically, bring your entire library with you rather than just one or two books. The second one is really the most compelling feature.

        That said, I mainly agree with you. E-books and e-book readers are inferior to regular books in most other ways and the additional DRM hindrances sellers are adding are making them even less useful. I'd be willing to pay thousands of dollars for a really good e-book that worked as well as regular books for me, but let me carry a whole library with me. I haven't bought one because I haven't seen anything that even comes close to matching a regular book's features.

        • Re:Wrong question (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Myopic ( 18616 )
          you can read them in darkness. great. can you read them in bright sunlight? that would be far more compelling. i actually don't know the answer to that question, but i can't (for instance) see my laptop screen in bright sunlight, so if ebooks can manage that, i'd like to know how.
      • Re:Wrong question (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Arandir ( 19206 )
        I cleaned out my mom's garage, and discovered a box of my old stuff in it from twenty-five years earlier.

        I am now re-reading several books from that period, mainly early Stephen King's. If these were ebooks, they would now be as useless as... ...the TSR-80 and AppleII software that was in the same box. If I had access to an 8" floppy I might be able to extract the files from them and run them under an emulator. But that's only because they didn't have DRM in 1981.
      • Q? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by umbrellasd ( 876984 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @08:18PM (#14895510)
        Why *should* I take up ebooks? What is the compelling case? Until there is a compelling case *for* switching, the reasons against aren't crucial, IMO.
        I want my whole library on a single device, and I want a backup that fits in my pocket. I will keep the backup in a safe place (not my home) and carry the library with me wherever I may roam. I will read more because of it, and my life will benefit from that.

        I'll never have to worry about the condition of my books. It will never require a truck to move my library. I'll never worry that a fire will entirely wipe out the collection of literary treasures that I have amassed over decades, and letting go of most of my books will remind me that people and their ideas are more important than the objects that record them. There are a long list of things that motivate me to switch.

        Do I treasure books? Yes, I do. Are there some books that I will keep? Yes, there is a small number of books that I revisit frequently and have special significance in my life. In a way, moving most of my collection to digital will make me appreciate the books that I do have even more. Like the value of a real owl in Blade Runner.

        Maybe those reasons are no good for you, but I personally have plenty.

    • I read a few books on an old Palm V five or six years ago. That was fine, until the Palm V fell in a lake.

      What did I learn from my clumsy anecdote?

      1. Nobody sold books I wanted in a format that worked on the device without a crack.

      2. The device was expensive compared to a book.

      3. The display was workable, but lousy compared to a real book. It did work at night without a light, though.

      4. The batteries in a real book last much longer.

      5. You can't read an e-book until you reach cruising altitude on a plane.

  • by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:46PM (#14891317)
    Let's see. First is the ridiculously high upfront cost for a device that even allows me to read an ebook (yes, I know about cheap PalmOS devices and Project Gutenberg--I'm talking about commercially available ebooks). Second is that DRM-laden ebooks typically cost the same or more than an equivalent dead-tree version. Third, I like being able to walk up to my bookshelf and grab a book to loan to a friend. Don't get me wrong, there are some things that I think ebooks are perfect for (namely, a reference library). But when points 1, 2, and 3 are taken into account, I'll continue purchasing the dead-tree variety.
    • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @04:33PM (#14893626) Homepage
      It's unfortunate that the term "e-book" has become associated in people's minds with a certain crappy model of the digital book: expensive; DRM-encrufted; only readable on an expensive, soon-to-be-obsolsete device; not available in formats that we know will be around for a while.

      Meanwhile (see my sig), there are hundreds of free out there on the web, many of them of very high quality. (I'm not talking about Project Gutenberg, I'm talking about books whose authors have intentionally set them free.) You can read them off the screen, or you can print them out and read them from hardcopies, or, in many cases, you can buy bound copies at a reasonable price. They're in open, DRM-less formats like PDF and HTML. You can e-mail a friend about them, and the friend can check them out and read them for free. Many of them are copylefted, so they're part of a growing digital commons that allows people to build on each other's work.

  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:46PM (#14891319) Journal

    e-books, what's holding me back?

    • price (seems only fair the prices should be competitive à la less expensive than the same back in hardback (they're NOT!)).
    • compatibility - until and unless I know I can move my book around to different readers/computers to read without being fingered a criminal and with minimal fuss, I'm not interested.
    • convenience - related to previous comment - If I have to jump through a bunch of DRM hoops to stay clean, I don't have the energy to do so (though if this does take off I cringe at the number of hours I'm going to spend "supporting" my non-technical friends and family).
    • quality - I still haven't seen a device or reader that approaches the quality of print (even the e-ink doesn't), nor have I found something that comes close the the ambience and ergonomics of a book.... heck none of the e-readers even come close to smelling like a book.
    • portability - I don't know the state-of-the-art for things like printing portions of an e-book, but I want it to be easy, and again, I want it to be unencumbered.
    • selection - I don't want to make my decision on e-book reading based on what's available and what I have to do to get it.
    • price - did I mention price?

    I think there's a general misconception by the idiots making decision in their conference rooms about rolling out these products. They clearly have misidentified their priorities as technology first, customer experience second (if that). Invariably the emphasis is wrapped around protecting content to the detriment of any pleasure and easy-to-use experience for customers. As long as the e-book industry continues down this path (and all other future e-media) the long term impact is negative for the content providers. It only takes one or two disasters (reader stops working, customer can't get the "rights" transferred to new reader, etc.) for customers to pretty much wash their hands of the experience.

    Other than that, it's all good.

    I know this list closely matches the article's prediction... but it bears repeating... (I actually wrote up my list before going to the "read more", unaware the read more had the list.)

    • All excellent reasons. But let's not forget also that it's easy to lose books, but when they only cost a few bucks, who cares?

      Me, I just like holding a book and turning the pages. And they are easy on the eyes.

      • by Skreems ( 598317 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:12PM (#14892107) Homepage
        Better to lose one $8 book than a $400 reader and every book on it.

        And agree about the interface preference. Books are just comforting. Reading is supposed to be something you do to get AWAY from the ever-present electronics. Something simple and entertaining you can take with you anywhere, sit on or drop down a flight of stairs without damage, and loan to friends. It's not something you need to design a digital "experience" around.
      • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:32PM (#14892325)
        And they are easy on the eyes.

        I'm surprised this hasn't come up more often already.

        On-screen reading speeds simply aren't comparable to reading off paper, for anyone, no matter how much of a geek. (Go ahead and Google for the research: books have been found to be anywhere from 1/3 to over 2x faster.)

        Moreover, prolonged VDU use, particularly when focussing at the same distance constantly and not making the effort to relax the eyes and switch subject occasionally, increases eye strain. It's less strenuous to read a well-printed book in good light, and doing so doesn't reduce your rate of blinking and therefore dry your eyes out to the same extent while you're concentrating.

        All in all, any form of extended electronic reading is pretty much doomed to be niche-only until display devices are far, far better than they are today. Get back to me when you've got at least 5x the resolution of a typical display screen and contrast/brightness that auto-adjust to the surroundings for optimum reading comfort. The cost, DRM, etc. are pretty much irrelevant until that point.

    • I still haven't seen a device or reader that approaches the quality of print

      In general, I'm in agreement with all of the points made in your post. However, from actually having held it in my hand, I can tell you that the screen on the Nokia 770 is certainly "print quality". Even bringing it very close to my it's difficult to see individual pixels on fonts.

      With a slightly larger screen, the right reading software, and content, I could see using it long-term to replace my existing 1000+ book library.

      • There is something Softer about black ink on white paper that I haven't yet encounter on screen. I always feel slightly jarred reading on screen vs paper. it is less relaxing and the information seems to transfer differently. And its not resolution or refresh AFAICT.
  • Why I like books (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StithJim ( 943396 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:49PM (#14891339)
    I, personally, like real books to ebooks. The portability of the paper book is a lot better than my laptop. There a few pound difference between them. Also, books require no batteries or AC power.
    My favorite part about books, it that you can put them on your bookshelf. That way people think that you're deep and intuitive because you read pretty, leather-bound books. It also creates an ambience that ebooks just can't.
    • by pla ( 258480 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:25PM (#14892237) Journal
      The portability of the paper book is a lot better than my laptop.

      I would like to see a decent eBook reader for exactly the opposite reason... My itty bitty Palm can hold hundreds (thousands?) of novels and/or textbooks. A dead-tree version can hold - One.

      Now, when I go to bed and want to read for a little while, I'll go into my library and grab a physical book. The "expense" of choosing poorly means I need to get out of bed and visit one room down the hall. When I have to wait in a doctors office or on a bus or even just while away from home for a few days, picking a new book usually doesn't even exist as a possibility.

      So since I clearly prefer bits to paper, why do I still have a spare bedroom dedicated to serving as a home library?

      The readers.

      My notebook has simply amazing resolution, but only lasts three to five hours without AC. My Palm lasts over a full day without recharging it, but hurts to look at for more than a few minutes at a time. Dedicated eBook readers look good and some even get adequate battery life, but make it difficult or even impossible to load non-DRM content.

      So what would get me to switch completely?

      Something with the form-factor of a small clipboard, preferably flexible, with a high-resolution (though not necessarily color) display (ePaper seems perfect here).

      It must either last at least 18 hours on one charge, or take (and last at least 4 hours on) standard rechargeable AA batteries (though without making it too thick - Perhaps the "spine" could hold a column of them?).

      It must lets me access (at a minimum) plaintext, postscript, HTML (including MHT or MAF or some comparable all-in-one-file HTML container, including full gif/jpg/png/bmp support), and PDF wouldn't suck. It must also not complain about merely storing any other type of file, though I don't expect it to do anything with them.

      It must accept a non-proprietary low-cost DRMless media type such as standard CF or SD. It should also have a reasonable quantity of nonvolatile on-board storage that I can copy content to and from (without restriction) the CF/SD/whatever card, so I can keep my favorites in it at all times.

      It must have a load-and-render time lower than what it takes to turn a physical page of a book, so perhaps 3 seconds worst-case.

      It should, preferably, have some flexibility to act as a sort of general purpose PDA - Nothing fancy, just a personal organizer. It doesn't need a touchscreen or full keyboard, the old-fashioned console game "Please enter your name" style interface would suffice - I don't want another PDA, but I also don't want to need to turn on a separate device just to jot down a note like "meet bob at 9:30" or "Susie Q: 911-5555".

      It should support at least one "open" programming interface, to allow the geeks of the world (myself included) to write cool eye-candy-clicky-widgets (c'mon, you know you need Tetris, Snakes, and Mine Sweeper to run on every electronic device you own!) for it. I accept that running such add-ons may drastically reduce the battery life, as long as I have that choice.

      For all that, I would pay up to around $500 (for a totally perfect implemenation... Halve that for the basics of what I want).
  • A few reasons (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bladesjester ( 774793 ) <slashdot AT jameshollingshead DOT com> on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:49PM (#14891347) Homepage Journal
    There are a few reasons in my case:
    1) Paper is easier on my eyes.
    2) Paper makes it easier to rapidly flip pages.
    3) Most of the e-books I have are PC based. This means that I have to keep switching windows if I am reading a technical book while I am working.

    E-Books are nice because I can carry them around without all of the bulk of paper, so I usually keep a few with me if I'm working on something away from my bookshelf, but otherwise, I tend to stick with paper.
    • 3) Most of the e-books I have are PC based. This means that I have to keep switching windows if I am reading a technical book while I am working.

      Seriously, get a second monitor. It's well worth it if you're a coder, and I'm sure it can be justified for other highly paid employees as well. The time savings are there.

      I'm with you on the eBooks, though - paper is better in so many ways (ability to buy used, ability to loan out, ease on the eyes, no format issues, no device issues, no complication whatsoev
      • I use my laptop for dev work. Haven't bought a new desktop since 98.
        • Re:A few reasons (Score:3, Informative)

          by KlomDark ( 6370 )
          If you are using WinXP, and your laptop has an external VGA connector on the back, plug in a second monitor to your laptop. Then go to Display Properties, Advanced, Select Display #2 and check 'Extend my Windows Desktop onto this monitor'. Voila, dual monitors with a laptop.

          You can do this with Linux as well, but I don't remember the correct tweaking steps that need to be done. Someone else fill in for me here?
  • Eye strain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the_demiurge ( 26115 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:49PM (#14891351) Homepage
    I look at a computer monitor all day. When I relax with a book, I want a non-screen-refreshing, non-light-emitting way to read. It really makes my eyes feel better that way.
    • Re:Eye strain (Score:3, Insightful)

      by j00r0m4nc3r ( 959816 )
      Even more than just eye relief, is soul relief. I don't want to have to sit in front of my stupid computer to do everything in life. Sometimes it's good to unplug and do something else.
      • Umm...

        Let me introduce you to this miracle device called.... THE PDA!

        You don't have to sit in front of a computer to read eBooks... I do most of my fiction-reading on my trusty Palm Tungsten E2. And I read a LOT. I still buy hard copies of some books, based on availability, or impulse (I rarely walk out of book shops empty-handed... I'm an addict!).

        And PDAs have a lot of advantages when it comes to reading books on the move. They are easy to carry, they are smaller than books, you can pick up your pd
  • Baen if I'm nice and and amule if I'm nasty.

    Would i ever buy a PDF? Maybe. Would I ever buy a DRM'd book? Not if my life depended on it. A book with worse limitations than paper is not useful, now or ever.
  • by fruitbane ( 454488 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:52PM (#14891381)
    The answer is give up on mainstream eBook products.

    I have several gripes with eBooks.

    The first is that many are just PDF conversions of regular books, and you have to have a large, high-resolution screen to view everything in full detail. I want something that fits on a small screen.

    Second, paper is much easier to read. If I stare at a computer screen, intently focused as I tend to be when I'm reading for absorption and retention, for the amount of time it takes to read that in a paper book, not only have I wasted more time with scrolling and futzing with controls and commands, but I also have a lot more eye strain. With a book, minor adjustments are innate motor functions, and there's no refresh rate to contend with and no strain from backlighting.

    Third, books are much more durable than any eReader device will ever be able to claim to be. Stuff it in the front pocket of your bag or backpack and the eReader will have a broken screen in a few weeks. The book will simply develop some dents or curvature.
  • ...DAMN there goes the battery.

    I'm definitely in the book-as-UI camp. Books have pages, which I prefer to turn versus using a scrollwheel, and they work wherever there's sufficient light.
  • The main reason I prefer reading dead-tree anything over the same content online is reflected light vs. emitted light. When I read a book, the book isn't actively shooting photons into my eyes. I find that with a monitor, laptop or PDA, my eyes tire much too quickly for long periods of reading.

    An additional factor would be comfort when reading. I prefer to recline when reading and my desktop doesn't really offer the ability to pick it up and lay down on the couch with a good novel. I could do this wit

  • Those are all good reasons. I certainly don't want to be tethered to a computer just to read a book. The wife already gets upset if I take the laptop to the crapper. I suppose if there were a reader with exceedingly high resolution, long battery life and the cost was negligible I might be tempted. However, this magic device doesn't exist.

    I also like to let people borrow my books. I don't see this being that easy with ebooks in our DRM'ed world

    All in all, ebooks strike me as being like tablet PCs--kinda ne

  • two reasons for me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zetes ( 110457 ) * on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:56PM (#14891417)
    I will have to agree with Yagu on a couple points.

    1) Price - non-free eBooks are way too expensive. Free eBooks are not as comprehensive in selection.
    2) Device - the Sony eBook Reader looks to be the end-all, be-all of eBook readers, so I was going to look into that when it arrives in April. It would be interesting to see if the new Origami devices can handle multiple eBook formats. Although since it has a full OS on there you could just up your favorite eBook ready software.

    Anyways, once these two things are fixed, I could get heavily into eBooks instead of paperback.

    On a side note, I did buy the reader from eBookWise [ebookwise.com] and I like it. It is only greyscale and only reads a few formats (not including PDF or images), but it is nice for simple eBooks and Word Docs. I got this until something better comes along.

  • I like to be able to throw a book in my bag to read on the train. I like to read whilst relaxing on my bed. I like to read in the bath. I don't want the risk of damaging my expensive e-book reader, or it running out of batteries when I've reached a good bit. I want to be able to lend a book to a friend, which with DRMed e-books is a practical impossibility (can't just pop it in an envelope and say "enjoy it!"). I like seeing my books lined up on my shelf. I want to be able to know I'll be able to read my bo
  • by scoser ( 780371 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:00PM (#14891447) Journal
    Burning e-books with offensive material isn't as satisfying as burning paper books that offend me!
  • by labeth ( 959822 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:03PM (#14891481) Homepage
    I'm a librarian who specializes in audio/blended learning, so I guess I'm supposed to be an advocate of this sort of thing. And of course, I msut concede that there are benefits to books being available in formats other than paper, and that they are helpful to people who learn differently, etc. etc. The truth, however, is that I absolutely hate not having a physical book in front of me. Many of the reasons behind this have been listed above; there are the DRM restrictions as well as the expense of purchasing a portable reading device to contend with. Additionally, considering that I spend 8+ hours a day at work staring at a computer screen, I sometimes find it somewhat refreshing to not be tethered to technology for a little while and to just relax on the window-seat with a book, a cat, and a cup of tea. I'm certainly not technophobic, but the portability and permanence of a normal, paper book is just something I don't know that I feel can be replaced.
  • by gral ( 697468 )
    Is all I need to start reading. I have read the Tarzan series, the Venus series, the Barsoom series, from Edgar Rice Burroughs, all in plucker format.

    I have read Doctor Who books downloaded from BBC website in plucker format.

    Three Musketeers books 1 & 2
    And several others.

    Currently, I have a Dell Axim, but am going to be getting a Nokia 770, mainly for the screen size, and the fact that there is already a Plucker reader. ( Or I can help make one.)
  • Incompatibility (Score:3, Informative)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 ( 638312 ) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:05PM (#14891497) Homepage Journal
    I've got a very nice e-book reader on my PDA, actually potentially three of them, but two are so crippled as to be esentially useless.

    1. It's a WinCE PDA, so of course it's a surprise that Microsoft Reader is one of those rare "Microsoft did it right" applications. Unfortuneately, nice as the UI is, they fscked it up with their DRM'd .LIT format- it's damned hard to find free or even cheap e-books in that format (I personally see no reason why any e-book should cost more than the paperback equivalent- and preferably a lot less).

    2. I also have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed- unfortuneately the version I have has no "reformat to fit screen" option, and most PDFs are designed to be read or printed to 8.5x11 paper- not exactly a format readable when zoomed down to fit on a 240x320 screen. I'm stuck with either side scrolling (not something you want to do with an e-book) or trying to read 4x4 pixel characters on the screen (also not possible, though quite entertaining seeing what happens to certain fonts when shrunk to that size).

    3. I also of course have Pocket IE installed- but that's the same problem as Adobe Acrobat, minus the zoom feature. Good for reading smartly designed HTML 1.0 files that don't have any tags more complex than paragraph and line break, horrible for anything else.

    Worse yet, the only .txt reader I've got is Pocket Word and Pocket Notepad, neither of which designed for anything close to the task and both have horrible page scrolling controls that have a tendency to change the text.

    So that's my list- not horribly useful, though I do carry around the standard set of Microsoft Rights-Free books.
  • Wrong question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by matt me ( 850665 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:10PM (#14891533)
    What's holding me back? Everything. That such a product exists is completely beyond me. The disadvantages above are just a few of an infinitely-long list of complete flaws. They really are a dumb idea, when there is *NOTHING* wrong with a book, which are just *PERFECT*. They are a proven and timeless form of communication that will *never* be obsoleted, just as we will never live on the moon, drive flying cars or have robotic teachers at our children's schools. Wake up. There is technology that improves our lives (iPods) and there is technology of uninspired science fantasy that not only would never actually function, but more importantly we will never need (keys fitted with an RFID tag - I am perfectly capable of finding my keys myself, the RFID tag could never tell me I left them at the coffee shop, but if I *was* worried about losing them I would use a code).

    So answer my question: Why the asdf would I ever want an 'eBook'?
    • To summarise: Books are perfect for what they are. A palmtop is no less portable, and much more fragile than the copy of the catcher in the rye in my bag. Yes I see the advantages in searching, but that's only of importance with relevance to say, an encyclopaedia, on a PET (personal electronic thing) but that's wikipedia, not an ebook. The things they call ebooks are in no way equivalent to a book. So innovate. There is a market for technologies that allows us to speedily consume information read wikipedia
    • Frankly, I think this is largely a matter of personal taste. I'm not going to argue that you're wrong, as it's not possible to be "wrong" when you're talking about your own opinion. I will say that my opinion differs with yours. I like being able to carry a small library's worth of books in my pocket, so I'm never without reading material wherever I am for as long as my batteries hold out. I like being able to read one-handed, and not have to worry about a paperback book not lying flat. I like being able t
    • IMO, there are advantages to having books in electronic formats, but companies are deliberately removing or restricting those very advantages. The main advantage of a book in an electronic format is to be able to copy a portion or all of a book and many times as you want and do whatever you want with it.
  • by mrm677 ( 456727 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:13PM (#14891570)
    Its a simple matter of resolution. Typical photographic and typographic prints are 300+ dpi. A LCD screen is usually between 72-100 dpi.

  • I regularly read ebooks, mostly on my Palm, but often on a desktop or laptop. I've even taken paper books I own and scanned them to produce text files. To me, it's a lot more convenient to pull out the Palm that I almost always have with me and read whenever I get a chance. I can be in the middle of a half-dozen books at once and I don't need a booklight to read in bed.

    The only thing keeping me from really "adopting" ebooks is that I can rarely justify paying $20-30 for a text file, especially if I get

  • by JoeShmoe ( 90109 ) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:17PM (#14891611)
    It's just impossible for people to read from a monitor without increasing their stress. You just can't stare at a florescent light or itty bitty neon lights or itty bitty LED lights for hours on end without your brain realizing there's got to be something better to look at.

    Either they can figure out a way to light a screen with natural sunlight, or they can create true electronic ink. No reflection like cheap LCD. No backlighting like expensive LCD. No light emission like LED/plasma. We need the ambient light to bounce off a primarily white surface and refract naturally into our eyeballs.

    It someone hands me a tablet approximately the size of a paperback, let's say maybe 5" x 4", makes it as thin and light as possible (1" and 5 lbs would probably be the maximum allowed) and gives me a way to load any kind of rich-text format onto it, I will buy one...I'll buy ten...I will throw piles of money at them, and spent the next few weeks of my life copying every single digital document I have onto whatever memory card the device uses.

    I have been trying to replace the book in my life for about ten years. I tried Palm (to small, too dim)...I tried PocketPC (too small, too bright)...I tried laptops...(to huge, too bright) I tried Tablet PCs...(ugh, what a turd that design is).

    My only hope is that new portable reader Sony has been working on that they are releasing in Japan. If Lik-Sung offers one, I'll probably buy it. Of course, I may have to wait for someone to crack whatever stupid eBook format it uses to allow me to load my own content.

    Or maybe Apple will create a real iBook and do for literature what they did for music. Pleeeeeeeeeease?

  • wrong question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Darth_Burrito ( 227272 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:17PM (#14891614)
    what keeps you personally from reading e-books?

    The right question is, for those people who are using ebook technology, why are you doing it? If someone wants to get a book, they can find it anywhere in real book format. It's well understood, easy to use, it's something most have us have been comfortable with since the age of 6-7.

    I'm guessing the people who use ebooks do so because
    • They want to try out the new format
    • They need highly portable references which happen to be published in ebook formats and perhaps other portable devices like a laptop are too clunky or unavailable.
    • They want to save shelf space? This doesn't seem very valid as one would imagine a small percentage of books are published as ebooks and most non reference books are read once materials anyway so you either don't need to keep them or do because you like have a shelf full of books.
    • Improved searchability of references? This is a neat aspect, BUT an electronic version of a "BOOK" format is not an optimal electronic reference. For example, most knowledge webs link between related information while a book is far more linear/narrative.
    Any other reasons? Usability perks? If you're sitting at an airport with wireless, can you just buy and download a book instantly right from your reader?
  • Rocket eBook (Score:5, Informative)

    by DavidLeblond ( 267211 ) <(me) (at) (davidleblond.com)> on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:18PM (#14891618) Homepage
    I use to have the Rocket eBook many moons ago. It was actually excellent to read at night or in dim lighting... no need for a booklight!

    - However, you couldn't read outside because of the glare.
    - You couldn't read in the bath or on the beach because... well, the thing was friggin $300.
    - You couldn't get "used" books on it for cheaper.
    - Books cost about as much for it as they did hardback, which is expensive.
    - I dropped it once and had to pay $75 to get the screen replaced. I drop a book and its fine.
    - Not all books were available for it (when they actually made books for it that is)

    I don't see eBooks replacing books any time soon.
  • Ebooks for me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chris_eineke ( 634570 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:18PM (#14891620) Homepage Journal
    Principally, ebooks are a good idea. They ought to take up less space, weigh a lot less than their paper-based counterparts, and be interactive. Unfortunately, most ebook reading environments (for lack of a better phrase) are either:
    • too expensive (price)
    • too bulky (form factor)
    • too heavy (weight)
    • too locked down (Digital Restriction Management)
    • lack certain functionality that could improve the reading experience

    The perfect ebook reader would be something like a hybrid of the Young Lady's Illustrated Primer in Neal Stephenson's book Diamond Age [wikipedia.org] and Nintendo's GameBoy SP.

    An ebook reader should have:
    • internal storage capacity to hold ebooks
    • an expansion slot (like the GameBoy) to upload new ebooks and play otherwise interactive (inter-ractive? ;)) media
    • A screen optimized for reading (flickerfree, highcontrast)
    • Long battery time
    • Reasonably cheap
    • Light in weight
    • Wireless (802.11 and/or GPRM) connection
    • Reconfigurable software
    • No DRM

    That's just some of the things I would like in an ebook reader.
  • Used Book Stores (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GlL ( 618007 ) <gil AT net-venture DOT com> on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:19PM (#14891627)
    I rarerly purchase any books new, mostly because I enjoy the experience of used book stores. There is nothing quite like paying 1/8th of the cover price or less for a good book.

    As a geek, books are something I turn to when I am trying to escape from the daily grind. Since my daily grind involves computers, I like to step away from the screen to escape.

    Also, I have never had to reboot a book.
  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:20PM (#14891640) Journal
    "What's holding you back from switching to e-books?" completely misses the point for the same reason "What's holding you back from switching to Linux?" does.

    The question is -- why should I switch? The only reason I can think of is to read off-copyright books for free, instead of having to go to the library. There's no price advantage for current books, no space concern (a full bookshelf makes me look smart), no portability advantage, certainly no readability advantage. So why should I switch?

    • by figa ( 25712 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:03PM (#14892015) Journal

      This is exactly what I was thinking. There are only a few reasons I can think of to use an eBook:

      1. You can't grep a tree.
      2. I would love to see chess books with interactive board displays. There's already a lot of chess instructional software in the ChessBase format that's more or less an eBook, and some popular print chess books are rereleased in this format. The software is more expensive than an a comparable book, but the interactivity and ability to work with or against the computer is a huge plus. The problem is, nearly all chess eBooks are only for the PC. I have a couple for Windows Mobile, but the screen is too small on my iPaq to display the text and board at the same time. I guess I really need a tablet PC.
      3. EBooks would be great for text books because you could copy code examples (if they aren't DRMed), textbooks are already quite expensive, they tend to be really large, and you need to carry a lot of them around.
      4. I'm interested in rapid serial visual presentation for skimming or reviewing reference works. EBooks could provide a text view and a RSVP mode for the same text.

      None of these are good enough reasons to buy a dedicated eBook device. I think we need to see inexpensive, x86-based, palm-sized general purpose devices with 20-hour battery life and digital ink become widely available before people are willing to choose an eBook over a paperback.

  • I read lots of ebooks on my Palm Tungsten W. At the moment I'm re-reading the complete works of E. A. Poe (first time I read I's too young to perceive all the nuances).

    Now, most of my ebooks come from Memoware [memoware.net], a site dedicated to free ebooks (and they have an extensive list of titles).

    Plus, they have a store as well, where you can buy titles that are not public domain yet.

    I also download free ebooks from the Project Gutenberg [gutenberg.org] from Many Books [manybooks.net], a site that converts plain text files from PG to a range of PDA
  • Most of the books I read are references, as an engineer I mark up texts, making notes or re-writing equations. It is hard to earmark, highlight, or otherwise deface an eBook in such a way that helps me digest the material and assists me in future work. It is also easier to flop a book down on the desk next to me and read it, rather than alt-tabbing between a book and my work.

    But the marking up issue is the biggest in my book (pun not intended). Handwritten notes are a killer.
    • And let's not forget -- when you have that well worn reference book, it'll open up to the places you go to all the time, because you've broken the spine in. You can also get discoloration of the pages, which serves as an indicator of what sections are more heavily used.

      Sort of like how some people are recording alternate commentary tracks for movies, I'd love to see a way for people to mark up e-books, and then seperate it from the original content, so that you can share it out to other people. It could a

  • Q: eBooks - What's Holding You Back?

    A: Copy protection. Next question.

    Seriously, though, I use eBooks all the time; I just get them from here [gutenberg.org] or anywhere else that doesn't try to limit what I can do with them in any way whatsoever. It's my hardware, I'll do whatever I please with it, and that includes copying your copyrighted material; if you don't like that, tough: you shouldn't have released it. I'll pay you if I think it's worth it. If you don't like that either, you should have asked for money up

  • I think eBooks are wonderful tools when we can really use them in a truly electronic fashion. As a D&D gamer, if I'm not gaming at home, it's really inconvenient to haul all the books with me. When I've been able to get copies that have been scanned, OCR'd, and put into some kind of format, I've found it to be really useful to haul a laptop with me to look up stuff, instead of hauling all 50+ lbs. of books I have.

    That said, I really don't have much use for them when I'm not travelling or in the hospital
  • Most importantly, books are pretty much perfect - they are very easy to read (typography-wise), don't have batteries, only degrade gradually, instead of breaking catastophically; you can spread several around you, you can open them on the page you want and they'll stay there, you can underline important words or scribble in the margin with a pencil. You can choose between a new, expensive book, or a slightly damaged much cheaper used one. You can get them from libraries. You can read them away from the comp

  • I guess it is worth repeating here.

    >3. Lack of content: Books they are interested in aren't available in electronic format

    Generally, this is it. I am a fan of eBooks, not because I prefer that over a real book, but because it fits my lifestyle better. I can read in places I wouldn't have a book handy, carry more with me, take a few minutes here a few more there...

    The problem is getting the content. I am not rabid for or against DRM, I understand both sides of the issue. I don't have a *real* preference f
  • Reading something that is supposed to engage your imagination for a long amount of time on an electronic screen is really really awful. So I personally will never read a fiction e-book. I generally won't read non-fiction either. I will always print out technical papers and dense material. The only exceptions are short and easier to read pieces - tutorials, Wikipedia, etc. If the material is too dense, it's too hard to read. But if it reads like a chat, or communication instead of Information, then reading o
  • 1. DRM
    I do NOT like being locked into one format. While it's true that I've been using Palm PDA's for years, that could easily change, and an investment in DRM's eBooks would be useless.

    2. Form factor of reader
    Again, my PDA of choice is PalmOS-based. Using a Tungeten T3 in its "extended" mode makes reading easy, but I still like paper. I'm looking at a Tungsten T|X, but it really is the same as the T3.

    I'd really like a PDA that would be pocketable, yet have a larger display--maybe something along the lines
  • I hate reading long texts on a digital display - it just makes my eyes tired. Until digital paper that has similar viewing characteristics as real paper & ink can be used, I'll stick with paper.

    The pricing models are absurd as well. There's just no way I can justify paying as much (or in some cases more) for an eBook when it's "just" data than I pay for a nicely bound and printed paper edition.

    The absolute and only texts that I currently work with electronically are references/working books. Anything I'
  • I've read about 60 e-books on my Dell Axim, mostly in Microsoft Reader format. The Baen library that another poster noted is an excellent source of DRM-free books. I've also downloaded and read a number of public-domain books from the e-library at the University of Virginia, which transfers many older classics into various e-book formats.

    The Pocket PC is a nice reading tool, but it's still just not quite up to the paperback experience. The screen only holds about 30% of the text from a paperback page at a

  • I'm a reader. I like books. You know, the physical objects. I like the way they fit into my hands, I like the way they smell, I like the way I can stack them, I like the way in which having many of them leads to having quite an impressive looking library, where I can walk past the shelves and relive memories and randomly pick one up and leaf through the pages and remember. I like the ways they don't use electricity, I like the way I can read them in bath without worrying, I like the way I can fall asleep wi
  • two things (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catfoo ( 576397 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:35PM (#14891798)
    for fiction and some nonfiction, books are just better. just face it and move on. when people read fiction they tend to read one at a time. you can create a paper thin diplay thats as good as any lcd display, sell it for 10$, and have a battery that lasts forever but if its just for fiction no one will buy it. evfar.

    but fur everything else... a document distribution and management framework combined with a flash based tablet that runs on AA batteries and linux, 7 inch screen. call it the NOTWEN (newton backwards). it needs wireless, bluetooth, bittorret, email, pdf reader, and mp3/ogg player, boot from SD and storage on a USB flashdrive. set up an effective gui for subscribing to online document libraries and getting updates to docuements delivered automaiticaly (RSS/bittorrent??). users will be able to set up corporate and personal document libraries and the device will mesh them together to help them manage access to written documents. its a PDA and a document organizer. my boss will get one and he wil leave it on his desk for weeks useing it as a digital picture frame, then he will pull it from the cradle and plug in his usb flash drive and read docs while riding to some meeting or use it to listen to podcasts.

  • I like paper, and DRM makes information next to worthless even for my personal, non-pirate use.
  • by CXI ( 46706 )
    My biggest annoyance with eBooks is that they generally are not available with the release of the hardcopy. You have to wait months (or forever) to see the eBook come out, which is ironic given that the book was almost certainly published from a digital source!

    My second issue with them is that I generally would like to get both the hardcopy AND the elecronic version at the same time, but to do this I'd have to pay for the same content twice.

    I have plenty of gadgets to view electronic books on, from handheld
  • I do read ebooks on my computer, although I would like a decent sub $200 handheld reader(or a crappy $20 one).

    But as long as publishers charge paperback prices for DRM-laden unreformatable files, I'll be grabbing the cracked versions with a relatively clean conscience(Relatively since after I read them, I usually buy the physical book, but I know most authors get about the same % as musicians).

    Right now, the only ebooks I pay for come from Baen. And lately, they've been getting most of my other book dollar
  • by acvh ( 120205 ) <geek AT mscigars DOT com> on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:40PM (#14891840) Homepage
    I got this copy of The Hobbit when I was 16. I bought this copy of Dune at Haslams in St. Pete. I stole Thomas Covenant from my roommate in college. That history does mean something to me. Provides a continuity.

    Easier, much, on the eyes, also.

  • Libraries (Score:4, Insightful)

    by harryman100 ( 631145 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @01:41PM (#14891854) Homepage
    I generally buy books after I've read them, If they entertained me, then I reward the author (and publishers) by buying the book. Otherwise I don't bother. I borrow books from people, or get them out of a library, it's rare that I buy books that I haven't already read (unless I have book tokens to waste, or there is a special offer on books by a favourite author).

    This is what eBooks are lacking, I can't borrow them from other people, I can't go and get the out of the library for free. I have to buy them and THEN enjoy them, the amount of money isn't directly related to the amount of enjoyment I get out of them.

    I do the same thing with all my media, I rent DVDs, then if the film is worth it, I buy it (it generally has to be awesome to get me to do this).

    I borrow CDs off friends, and generally rip them to my computer, where they will sit for a while and get played occasionally. After a while I either buy the album, or delete the files. I buy a lot of music un-heard as well though so it's a slightly different case.

    eBooks came too late, and they are DRMd so that I can't try them out without breaking the law, at the moment it's still much more convenient (they don't need re-charging, they are much less affected by variable light levels, smaller - I have a laptop, not a PDA) to get an actual book. And having a bookshelf which is overflowing, actually makes you look quite educated!

    Other reasons include the fact that generally I read a book to get away from technology for a while - If I'm going to have a gadget in front of me I'm going to want to play with it, tweak it, work on it, take it apart, customise it, generally mess around with it, install linux on it, you get the idea. Books are more focussed in this respect
  • Just like a regular book, but harder on the eyes. Possibly unreadable for your children due to obselesence. Can't be read if the batteries fail. If a publisher tried to build these "features" into a regular paperback, and charge more for it, they would be laughed out of the market.

    In other words, just because you can apply a technology to something, doesn't mean you should.

  • My books never have battery problems. I don't have to turn them off when planes are taking off and landing. I can loan them (and borrow them from) friends without onerous DRM hassles. They don't require a reader that marries me to a format or playback device. And frankly I read computer screens all day at work, I don't want to go home and do it.
  • (1) My eyes don't like monitors, both LCDs and CRTs. Maybe ePaper will be better, but right now regular paper is the best way to prevent them from hurting.

    (2) Currently, only PDAs are as portable as books. Laptops and especially desktops are just too bulky. But this is overshadowed by...

    (3) Books feel good. They have a cozy smell, and they're just fun. They're not going off the shelves anytime soon.
  • #5 - Lack of longevity

    I have books that are well over 100 years old, some of them being one of a handful of copies known to exist. Nobody is going to convince me that any eBook I buy today will survive the test of time, especially with DRM preventing me from doing anything with it.

    Plus, I can't stick an eBook in a copier, then pin up the photocopies on the wall and scribble on them while I work.
  • My biggest gripe about eBooks stem from the pricing model. They seem to run just about the same cost... But you are the only one who can read it (legally). But with a book, you give a copy of a good book to a friend and they enjoy it.

    You are getting less functionality for the same price... only because its in paper and ink.
  • Why would I want to read a book on my PC? If I am sitting at my computer, then I'd rather be playing a game or surfing the web or posting silly replies on Slashdot.

    Ebooks lack portability, which sort of defeats the purpose of it being a book in the first place. I don't want to take my laptop into the bathroom, ya know?

    I post my short stories online, but most of them can be read in 10 or so minutes. As far as downloading a full length book to read...well...screw that!
  • I have heard that the erotic fiction market has carved out a niche with e-books, like Ellora's Cave [ellorascave.com] and Sensorotika [sensorotika.com]. Warning! Those links might not be safe for work...
  • by claudebbg ( 547985 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:50PM (#14892546) Homepage
    I own some hundreds of books (paper ones) and I love them, read some of them far more than once. I thought of and tried the electronic way,
    1. as it could be more convenient
      Hey wait, not really because there are multiple incompatible models/formats
      How could it be? Books are just plain text even if some (10-20%) of them could need some html basic tagging and some others (1-2%) could need a bit more (like pdf).
      Oh yes, it's because of point 3
    2. as it could be cheaper
      Hey wait, it's not really cheaper. It's sometimes even the opposite. How could it be? As I pay for the paper, the ink, and the shipping/handling/storing is free, a pocket book could cost around $1-3 instead of $5-10.
      Oh yes, it's because of point 3
    3. as it could be easy and simple to share a book I loved with my friends (just 10s seconds transfer), to upgrade my reader when they'll do a better screen, to have a reader for the bus (small, bulletproof, iPod autonomy) and a reader for the house (bigger, less autonomy but better rendering)
      Hey wait, it's not what "they" (editors -of books and software-, manufacturers) want. "They" want repetitive costs for me, DRM, new way of "consuming" books.
    Here's why I don't think I'll see that working soon. Point 3 is what I want and what some authors want (they could even get a more direct relationship with the reader and earn a bit more), what the public want. As for music and cinema and software, digital age is doomed and there are, as for me, only two scenarios:
    • Consume. eBooks (and eSongs and eMovies and eSoftware) going more and more expensive (remember the price of a vinyl, a VHS/ticket, MsOffice in the early 90's?). Old fashion becoming luxury and less accessible to the public. More and more mainstream content.
    • Get. eBooks are shared (some initiatives, legal ones especially but also some less legal, are really good) using commonly accessible technology (Palm if it can survive, why not next gen. iPods). more audio-books are made by the public and shared over P2P networks. Isn't it what's happening to eSongs and eMovies and eSoftware?
    And I believe it's what will happen until some of "them" understand that "digital age" also means sharing knowledge, software, art (well, some of "them" are on the right way, and iTunes gave a good help for the music/TV "them" as did Sun/IBM/Apple for the software).
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:51PM (#14892560) Homepage
    But the general user cant do it my way.

    REader : Nokia 770 Absolutely AWESOME display, and right size for reading.
    Content: I read non drm files. Legally and illegally. If I find a book I want that is not availabel in a non drm version I either torrent for a cracked copy or get it in audiobook version from audible and crack that DRM myself. (Yes it is easy to crack audible drm.)

    Why do I do it this way? If I have to pay $300+ for a reader then I might as well get a reader that can do other things. my Nokia 770 does all that. Books? DRM is what I can not stand. I was burned big time with DRM on the franklin ebook reader as the content is locked to the reader and if you send your unit in for repair and they give you a refurb ALL your content has to be bought again.

    So I made the decision to simply break the law. it works great.
  • Parallels to iPod (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AlpineR ( 32307 ) <wagnerr@umich.edu> on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:52PM (#14892569) Homepage
    A good comparison for the potential of eBooks is the iPod.

    What's great about the iPod? It lets me listen to a large personal collection of music and is very small. The equivalent of my iPod in previous technology would be a portable CD player plus 200 CDs. So the iPod is smaller, longer lasting, and drastically lighter. Do eBooks have any similar advantage over paper books?

    What eBooks do share with the iPod are the drawbacks:

    • Expensive, prone to loss or theft
    • Electronic, need recharging
    • Electronic, forbidden during takeoff and landing. I already have to turn off my iPod during a flight. Do I have to turn off my book too?
    • Tied to computers, you can't add songs/text without access to a personal computer

    One area where eBooks might have potential is as a replacement for magazines. If the eBook were cheap and durable, then having the equivalent of twenty magazines in my backpack would provide convenient entertainment. And magazines are already filled with advertisements, so the downloads should be cheap and DRM-free. For this purpose, the ideal eBook format might be 8 by 10 inches, 1/8" thick, 8 ounces, and durable.


  • I like books (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spoonyfork ( 23307 ) <spoonyfork&gmail,com> on Friday March 10, 2006 @02:52PM (#14892582) Journal
    Books can sit on a bookshelf for everyone including myself to see.
    Books smell like books.
    Books can give you paper cuts.
    Books can be borrowed and shared.
    Books can be marked up (albeit with poor handwriting recognition ;)
    Books can be thrown across the room.
    Books can be burned.

  • by QuestorTapes ( 663783 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @05:37PM (#14894238)
    > It seems that the readers of Slashdot are the most likely early adopters of
    > electronic books,

    Based on what logic? The Ooo! Shiny! factor?

    Many slashdotters aren't as drawn to shiny as some people.

    > 1. Form factor: They just prefer the feel and 'interface' of a paper book.

    That's part of it. It's difficult to tell if you are discounting this as a legitimate factor, however. It sort of seems that you are. The size, ease of use, and dead-simple, legible interface of a paper book are -highly- compelling factors. Bluntly, eBook readers still can't offer anything better.

    > 2. Lack of a compelling device (or perhaps lack of convergence): They don't
    > own a reader (other than a PC or notebook) and can't take them with them.

    I think you under stressed -compelling- there. I read electronic books on my PC and notebook. Where the books refer to PC-centric subjects and that makes it convenient to read -as I work with the content I am learning-.

    If it were merely a matter of dragging the notebook along in order to read something non-pc oriented, I'd have just added a lot of weight and inconvenience for very little benefit. I also see no compelling reason to buy a separate device for this purpose.

    > 4. Distribution model: They don't like the DRM scheme their favorite
    > publisher offers, or are otherwise unhappy with current offerings.

    -Big point-; the only corrections I would make are to change "They don't like the DRM scheme their favorite publisher offers" to "They don't like DRM" -period-, and add that the rights of consumers are given little or no protection under recent DRM legislation. Why buy an encumbered book, especially when publishers are unwilling to cooperate in securing the rights of consumers to use the content they purchase -as they see fit-?

    > What reason do you have for not taking up e-Books? Are they listed above
    > or are there other reasons that you would like to add?

    I want to make sure this isn't misunderstood. Don't read anything into what I'm writing. There is no subtext; it's all clear and open.

    Plain paper books -work-. They offer the right combination of features, properly balanced, with adequate protections for both the consumer and the publisher. It ain't broke; it doesn't need fixing.

    In order to be a compelling replacement, eBooks have to offer at -least- a close approximation of the same benefits, plus something else.

    They don't.

    They're getting better; eBooks are not as atrociously hard to read as they once were; but they aren't as easy or easier on the eyes than paper books.

    They aren't as annoyingly crippled in terms of conflicting/limited/proprietary DRM schemes as they once were; they're still encumbered, though, and paper books aren't.

    The devices aren't stupid single function toys anymore, so you can use them even when not reading an eBook. And the devices generally support decent battery life/durability, etc. But paper books still don't need -any- reader device, and hence -never- have battery life or electronics failure issues.

    They might be getting to be nearly, almost as good at being books as books are. Maybe. But in some ways, they may never be as good, or even really that -close-.

    I can pass around a book, scribble in it, prop it open on my desk, give it away, etc. eBooks are -never- going to reach the same convenience in these areas. Maybe -close-; maybe with -additional enhancements-. But not the same; never exactly equal.

    And that means they don't make it past the "if it ain't broke" test. If I am satisfied with paper books (and I and -many millions of other people are-), then I need to be drawn to some other feature. Something outside of being a good book, that draws me to eBooks instead of paper. I haven't found one yet.

    Some people say they save trees; I do more for that by reusing paper bags and not buying useless magazines. Some people say you can save a little money; I save more by buying used
  • by bigberk ( 547360 ) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Friday March 10, 2006 @05:48PM (#14894332)
    I don't own a laptop. I prefer reading off of printed paper, can take it outdoors or other pleasant locations, can recline on a couch. Even for things shorter than books, I almost always print them out and read the paper. I'm hardly old fashioned (20-something year old graduate student in electrical engineering). Sorry but the ebook idea just seems stupid to me.
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Friday March 10, 2006 @08:10PM (#14895461) Homepage Journal
    One of the first things that impressed me about Unix was the "man" command.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein