Thursday, 22 July 2010

Eeee It's A (New) Reader

I am a big fan of reading and therefore I'm a big fan of books.  I like novels (usually pseudo scientific ones), text books, manuals and factual books.

Well I say books.  A couple of years ago I moved my reading into the digital age and bought one of the first eReaders that came onto the UK market - The Sony PRS 505.  It's been a great little reader and I've read almost a hundred books on it so far.  I would have read more but for two factors;  1) The books in the UK are expensive and 2) the selection of books available to download from Waterstones or WH Smith never really lived up to the marketing hype.  They had promised 50,000 books at launch with all new books being available in eReader format as they came out.  This never happened.  In fact there are still less than 30,000 titles available and searching for the one you want is tedious (a complaint that many, many people have made).  Many of the books I have wanted to buy just haven't been available and all Watersone's website will do is show you a copy of the printed book instead.

When I purchased the Sony, I really wanted a Kindle but, at the time, Amazon would not sell one outside of the US and even if you did manage to import one, you wouldn't be able to buy any books for it as the Kindle works by downloading the books, free, over the air.

All that has just changed.  Not only is the Kindle now available in the UK (albeit from Amazon's USA site) but Amazon has just made the entire library of over 400,000 books available to UK purchasers, with the same free, over the air downloading.  In fact, you can download your purchased books for free in over 100 countries - no monthly fee, no contract and no data charges.

Another bonus is that as the books are priced in US dollars, the exchange rate now makes the purchase of eBooks very attractive.  Best sellers are $9.99 which works out at around £7.00 as opposed to Waterstones who charge around £13.00 a book.  No wonder Amazon's shares have just gone through the roof.

I don't know if this is a good thing or not but in June sales of eBooks for the Kindle out did sales of printed books for the first time ever.

So, I have just listed my Sony on eBay (there are a number there already, all with loads of bids) and, with the money I get from that, some birthday money and a bit of my savings I have just ordered the Kindle DX which is that 9 inch screen version.  Unlike my sony, this will easily display text books with pictures, charts and tables and will also show PDF files full size.

Amazon also do something else that Waterstones don't do and that is to keep a copy of everything you have purchased on their website.  So, if you run out of space (unlikely) or lose your Kindle, you simply tell the site to beam your entire library back to you.  You can archive books to make room and still get at them (with all their bookmarks and annotations (yes the Kindle has a keyboard so you can make notes, use the built in dictionary or even surf Wikipedia for free)).  The Kindle even does text to speech so you can have your books read to you!

I haven't lost the books I already own on the Sony as I have found a free bit of software that converts them to Kindle format (a bit dodgy as it strips the DRM lock from them (don't get me started on what I think of DRM)).

Waterstones and Sony could have done the same as Amazon but they just didn't seem bothered.  I even wrote to Waterstones to complain about the lack of content and abysmal searching but never got a reply.

Oh well, their loss.

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