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Amazon Reader Buzz

Amazon_readerThe blogosphere is buzzing yet again over rumors of an upcoming e-book reader from Amazon (sample blog posts are here and here).  This PW article is helping to fan the flames and provides more speculation regarding quality ("reportedly as sharp as Sony"), price ("expected to be above $400") and functionality (Amazon's is supposedly "better" than Sony's).

One thing the PW article doesn't speculate on is the look and feel.  The picture above was making the rounds on websites/blogs last year, so it's hard telling whether it's accurate or even legit.  If it is, I hope it's not too late for Amazon to reconsider...  The device in this picture looks like a bad design from the 1980's!  Their designers would be much better off asking themselves, "What would Steve do?", as in Steve Jobs.  Price and functionality are critical, of course, but not at the expense of look and feel.

Speaking of which, $400 is already too expensive, so I hope this rumored product doesn't turn out to cost even more than that.  If so, and they go with this design, I can't see how this would be a hit.

P.S. -- Sony was kind enough to send me a Reader eval unit; I'll be tinkering with it over the next few days and will post a full review shortly.


Morgan Ramsay

Why would I spend $400 on a device to attempt to read digital books on a really small screen when I can spend $400 on books and comfortably read those books one at a time? Several years ago, I thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was an e-book reader device that fits in the palm of my hand?" But I didn't think such technology was practical.

Michael Miller

I'm still not convinced that e-books and e-book readers aren't solutions in search of a problem. I have never heard a single consumer say to me, "Gee, I wish I had some sort of gizmo that would let me read electronic books." Most consumers don't even know what electronic books are. (Heck, most consumers don't read, period.) The best solution for reading portable content continues to be the well-designed, technologically superior p-book.

Joe Wikert

Hi Morgan. I totally agree with you on the price issue. The price needs to come way down before these devices will be a hit.

Mike, thanks for reminding me of the disturbing fact that so few people read! I disagree with you that there's no problem to be solved with an e-reader. I think of all the books and magazines I lug around me when I'm on the road. I'd *love* to have all that loaded on a device the size of the Sony reader. Note that I said books *and* magazines. I want all of my reading materials on that device, not just books. Then there's the wireless functionality, full-color and all the other features I want...all for something less than $200.

Clément Laberge

...and the capacity to put in it meeting documents and anotated it and get them back to my computer thereafter. Sony does'nt fit those needs, iRex's not so bad...

I think that an interesting question is: what's the target market? Information (of all type) Super Users (like you and me) or the Typical Book Readers?

Bartek Roszkowski (Poland)

I've been using Sony Reader for 2 months and in my opinion this device is pretty cool for reading books but a lot have to be done first:
1. The screen is a little bit to small
2. The contrast is too small (backgroud should be rather white then grey). Important when you read in the evening
3. Soft should accept few sorts of formats. Sony's soft sucks!
4. An the most important the price: it should be for typical p-book reader not for geeks and it shouldn't cost more then $150-200 USD.

Morgan Ramsay

Books are expensive on their own. That should be recognized by the pricing of these devices. I would say that these devices should priced lower than their cost to manufacture and yet mandate a subscription to an iTunes-like service for books and other reading materials.

Imagine a world filled with kiosks where you would walk up, plug in your media device, and download items into your library a la ATMs. The next step up would be wireless kiosks and you would only need to be within range of a kiosk. Or at home or at the office connected to the Web.

Libraries and brick-and-mortar book superstores would be able to reduce their lease, storage, and shipping expenses to a bare minimum as most books would be available through kiosks specific to their exclusive inventories.

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