Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Sony Read" Player -- E-Books Are Here

Are you ready to tote around a portable reader that can store roughly 80 books and/or PDF files and other documents? Sony has just debuted the Reader for $350, which does all that on a rechargeable battery that can last for 7500 page turns. Here's a link to the Sony page and to the Connect eBook store.

A few thoughts: someday, a portable electronic reader will be commonplace and the killer app will be newspapers and magazines. Why buy disposable newspapers when you could just download the entire print edition onto a portable lightwweight device for the same money? No bulky transportation costs for the newspaper, no bulky weight for you. Same low price. It just makes sense.

But the price of the Sony Reader needs to come down fast: $350 for the privilege of buying eBooks is too high. The player should be a loss leader to drive sales of the titles. And going to the bookstore creates all sorts of confusion, since prices range all over the map from $15 to $20 for current bestsellers and new releases to wacky in-between numbers like $5.59 and $13.56. Suddenly the uniform pricing of iTunes seems a lot more appealing. And what about people who buy a hard copy? They should get a free or extremely discounted version of the same book for online. Yes, I know audio books don't come free, but that is a whole new production, while eBooks are the same thing in a slightly different format. Should I really have to buy Nora Ephron's new title twice at full price if I want the hardcover for my home and a portable version for taking on a plane ride? No, it doesn't make sense. It would be like having to buy multiple copies of a new album -- one on CD for the home, one for my iPod, one for my car, one for my boat, etc. Until they deal with these issues and make eBooks an adjunct or bonus feature of hardcovers/paperback or at most maybe a $2 bonus feature if you can type in your receipt number for your purchase, eBooks will remaind an oddity. Book publishers are mired in sluggish sales. Don't you think offering portability via an eBook should be an added bonus of buying a hardcover, rather than an entirely new expense? If you like the author to buy a version to download onto an eBook, surely you like them enough to want a permanent copy. And if you buy a permanent copy, why should you have to pay again to get it electronically?