Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gizmodo: New Sony Reader

Gizmodo reports that pictures of the new Sony E-Book reader have been leaked. Apparently the device is much improved, but asks the critical question: will a new and improved dumb device actually make it better?

It has always seemed to me that the promise of e-books is that the books will be more easily distributed and widely available. But so far, e-book vendors' strategies have gone contrary to this promise: First, e-books are expensive; and, second the devices themselves don't work with all computers (most don't work with Macs, for example). Each device also has insisted on using it's own proprietary software, in an apparent attempt to steer customers to stick with their platform, thus limiting the choices of consumers of e-books.

Now, with Google and Amazon getting into the market, consumers are stuck in a position of having to make arbitrary decisions between several different hardware and software platforms. And given the cost of hardware and software, the decision is essentially a lifelong one.

It's almost analogous to Border's or Barnes and Noble refusing to sell all their books in English, but arbitrarily selling them in various languages and codes.... I'm not sure the e-book is going to be ready for prime time, any time soon....

Monday, September 10, 2007

Google eBooks?

C|Net News.com reports that Google is about to enter the eBook market.  The Google Book Search of a few years ago, apparently taught them a thing or two about business possibilities and now they are exploring ways to spruce up their book offerings and sell them to viewers.  There's also a rumor that they are looking to develop a new device on which customers will be able to read the books they buy online.  There are two things that I can guarantee:  There will be some sort of digital restriction on usage (say you can read the book three times then it locks up, or you have three months to read it before it locks up), and they will probably develop their own proprietary software - because Sony's or Amazon's won't be good enough and, of course, they're just looking out for the consumer.....  Oy vey, here we go again.

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Amazon to the Rescue!

Ever wonder about why eBooks aren't taking off? Well, it's because Amazon hasn't been involved in the marketing of this fabulous, tree-saving, shelf-space-saving tool of the future! And everyone knows that the future is all about digital, right?

And if that exciting announcement in itself isn't enough, get ready for the BIG news: The rumors are that the Amazon eBook will have proprietary software! Nothing that's been done before is good enough for their new machine, so it's great news that users who are already "hooked" on eBooks will have to download new software. (This awesome twist is logical from a company who has been hauling in the sales with their incredible "Unbox" video service.) What genius.

But this article's punch line is the hint that Google is also looking to get into the market.

Incredible. In case you don't pick up on the sarcasm, I'm appalled that Amazon is so thick as to attempt more proprietary software. Their "Unbox" service is so illogical that it will probably win a Darwin award before too long. Think about it: They sell iPods. iPods have sold about 100 million so far. Huge market. So they decide to get into the video market and create a service that doesn't run on iPods. Makes sense to me.

Whatever Amazon calls their eBook, it will not succeed for the simple reason that they are working at odds with their customers. Rule number one of good marketing is to not confuse your customers. But Amazon's smarter than we are, right?