Mobileread
Are e-ink readers useful, or just a fun gadget?
#1  Bob Russell 09-20-2006, 01:09 PM
There is an interesting article by Jeff Scott, called Technology Nobody Uses: Are you buying it just to be cutting edge?, that raises the question of why people want e-book readers. If it's just a gadget thing, then there's never going to be widespread adoption.

I have to confess that I didn't read the whole article yet, so hopefully I don't misrepresent the author's meaning, but I'd like to know what our readers here think.

Are e-ink or other e-book readers always going to be a niche item for fringe tech and gadget fanatics? You know... slightly crazy people like us! Or do you think that e-book readers will be a useful product that can become mainstream? (We'll assume we have decent quality products and book sources, of course.)
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#2  NatCh 09-20-2006, 01:42 PM
Interesting article. Particularly his comment about more folks buying and ripping CD's than downloading because they want the physical token of ownership (paraphrasing).

He Linked a Washington Times article that discussed the obstacles to e-books. I think that in the long run, how well e-readers do or don't do, will depend mainly on how well such obstacles are addressed. If they aren't addressed well, then only technophiliacs like us will bother with e-readers, the better they are addressed, the more 'normal' folks will soften to them.

The WT article concluded that the best hope was to get kids using them for text books, and then they'll be accustomed to them when they grow up. I'm not sure that having my text books on an electronic reader would have well-disposed me to such devices. I don't recall liking my textbooks too much.
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#3  Frogsmasha 09-20-2006, 01:48 PM
I love to buy new products of technology, but when I make a purchase I usually research the item in question, and use it/them quite often. I've realized over the years that I must purchase items I will intend to use rather than to get the "Electronic Sexuals" as my father likes to call it. While some items I may neglect more than others, overall they all get used, and they never become forgotten.

When there are millions of books out in our world, and a device that is capable of letting huge libraries become digital, it becomes invaluable if you only use it a few times. Take for example Survival books, Medical books, and Think Tank issues. A device like this could save alot of lives if the world becomes chaotic over night :/

This device will motivate more people to become creative, and begin to write good stuff. I can't find any reason to pass this technology up
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#4  radleyp 09-20-2006, 04:11 PM
It the world becomes chaotic overnight, where will you charge the ereader battery? To me, this is all a matter of DRM: if the books I want to read are not available, the technology is of no importance. Moreover, a device that is a book reader only and will not fit in a pocket is of limited value to me.
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#5  Frogsmasha 09-20-2006, 04:30 PM
Quote radleyp
It the world becomes chaotic overnight, where will you charge the ereader battery? To me, this is all a matter of DRM: if the books I want to read are not available, the technology is of no importance. Moreover, a device that is a book reader only and will not fit in a pocket is of limited value to me.

With 7500 page turns on a single charge, I would bet it would be just fine to use, and this device might use traditional batteries? That I'm not sure about though.
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#6  Antoine of MMM 09-20-2006, 05:22 PM
Quote NatCh
The WT article concluded that the best hope was to get kids using them for text books, and then they'll be accustomed to them when they grow up. I'm not sure that having my text books on an electronic reader would have well-disposed me to such devices. I don't recall liking my textbooks too much.
Unfortunately, if all that eInk will do is try to replace the context of reading, then they will fail just as you said. Innovations, such as the Times reader approach, are needed in order to make eInk a viable alternative for text-book reading. Of course, being able to ditch book covers would be a better reason to go eInk and fancy (device everywhere, non-DRM except for some circumstances) books instead of paper
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#7  eumesmo 09-20-2006, 05:36 PM
Well, if you're a "technocrat" who thinks it is important for a "technocrat" to be erudite(think coup d'etat), then it is quite invaluable technology, reading literature, computer manuals, man pages, ssh into your unix box, writing code, writing books, whatever.
But it is doubtful those who never heard of PG, and more likely couldn't get it to work will actually care.
One would think at least Ministries of Education would be cracking skulls over this technology, and beside hints of interested chinese, never heard anything of the sort.
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#8  drc54 09-21-2006, 12:07 AM
I think the question of portability, and I mean the ease and durability of the device so that you can just flung it to the back seat of your car on the way to say, a family gathering; sure I'll use it. I also agree that given the change of things today, to be use as an academic text book "shell," makes sense. Study in history comes to mind. But then again, pdf documents on your PC accomplishes the same intent.
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#9  ath 09-21-2006, 03:48 AM
I think the question is slanted the wrong way. The term 'e-book reader' leads the thoughts in the wrong direction.

There are different markets for the printed word today. The very short term market is the daily newspaper and the weekly magazine on the one hand, and the printout of the latest version of the report I'm working on on the other. Neither of these will survive more than a few days at the most -- then they'll go into the paper recycling pile. Some of this material is distributed by the web today -- and lifetime of that can be so short that the next minute it's gone, and won't be back. (Lifetime is on the order of weeks)

Slightly longer is the monthly periodical -- some keep National Geographic forever, others perhaps year. Telephone directories belong in this categories, as do the cheapest kind of pocketbooks. Glue-bound material in general belong here: the glue has a life-time which cannot be exceeded. Many corporate documents belong here. (Lifetime is on the order of months and possibly years.)

The very longest life time is with the traditional bound book -- these can last practically forever. (There are books preserved from 800AD, and rarely takes long to find a decent book from the 1500's to buy, as long as you don't care what book it is.) The permanence of books has lead to ... well, 'embellishment' arts and practices, suitable for long-life media, that are entirely wasted on today's newspaper. Noone gives a cheap pocket-book gilt edges, or headbands: they don't last long enough. The term is also overloeaded by a concept of comfort: if a book intended to be read for pleasure is uncomfortable, we have a contradiction.

Now, by calling these devices e-book readers, the province of the books is invaded ... but by association, not because the material to be read belongs to that category. To some extent, I'm sure that their current format influence the apellation: they're in book format for now. And that may bring on the wrong reactions.

I suspect these devices are far more suitable for shorter-term material -- newspapers, printouts, web-data and possibly also some periodicals as well as corporate information. The value is here in the information, not in the medium, and some shortcomings will be accepted because of that. (Another interesting area is that of standards -- this is one area in which specially DRMed media would make sense: say, the POSIX standards on a MMC/SD, or all ISO computer-related standards. I'd like to have the full RFC collection myself, but I hate to have to reformat them to fit the book-sized screen we're stuck to for the moment ...)

The emphasis here is on information and reference, not on books. These devices are really e-readers, not e-book readers. So the question is misleading: why do people want e-book readers? They don't. They may want e-readers -- what they want to use these devices for is not primarily books, but information.

Note: it's pretty obvious, I hope, that gadget nerds are not people in the sense I use the term above.
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#10  Jorgen 09-21-2006, 07:31 AM
"We built it, and they didn't come,"

She means: "We overpriced it and DRM'ed it and they didn't come".
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