Everybody’s got an e-book store these days, but who’s reading?

While the Google Books settlement meanders on in one courtroom after another, Google also announced this week that they will be opening an e-book store of their own in 2010. Google Editions will compete with Amazon’s Kindle store and Barnes & Noble’s e-book offerings. That puts the big three all in play — all that’s left now is for Apple to get in the game.

Amazon has ridiculous amounts of selection and they have the PR — every time you buy something at Amazon these days, whether it’s the new bestseller or salad tongs, you are told you could have bought the Kindle version. Barnes & Noble is trying to catch up with this game, including their own e-reader (to be announced possibly as early as next week). Now Google Editions, like the Sony e-reader device, will be embracing universal format for its offerings. From PC World:

Google’s e-books will be accessible through any Web-enabled computer, e-reader, or mobile phone instead of a dedicated device. This will allow content to be unchained from expensive devices such as Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader.

I admit I like that aspect. If I’m going to own an e-book (and more on that in a second), I sure as heck want to be able to read it anywhere, my computer, my laptop, my iPhone. Right now my e-book usage is minimal (I haven’t paid for one yet, just downloaded some free stuff) but primarily I’ve been using Stanza, a free app for my iPhone. You can sync content from your computer to the app, supposedly — I’ve never gotten that to work. Far better, though, is the workaround I found out about — this site, Bookworm EPUB reader. It’s a free online storage site for your e-books (the ones that are in universal EPUB format) so that you can then access them anywhere, from any mobile device or computer. You can even choose to “open in Stanza”, and voila, that’s what I did. The other night I actually “curled up” with the iPhone and read a book that way and, I have to say, it wasn’t bad. Stanza has nice touch controls and ease of use, and I didn’t mind the small screen at all. Nice. I guess e-books are okay, and I can see myself reading more of them in the future. I’m also excited about the idea of being able to rent e-books from the library. Now that I could get on board with. If I borrow a book from the library, I’m not planning on owning it anyhow, so whether digital or paper copy, what difference does it make? But e-books replacing paper books in my life? Still kind of inconceivable.

However, as democratizing as this sounds, it’s still unclear how many people are ready to curl up with a Google Editions title on their laptop or smartphone, instead of the traditional paper format.

Yeah, that’s the rub.

5 thoughts on “Everybody’s got an e-book store these days, but who’s reading?

  1. I guess it’s cause I’m old (when it comes to tech), but I have no desire for an e-book reader. I want my books, my magazines, and my newspaper to be printed on paper. And I want my books in hardback. I found it interesting that you say you borrow books from the library if you don’t plan to own them. I get many books from the library to see if I do want to own them.

    M

  2. I think I’d only be able to buy an e-book reader that pretty much replicates the feeling of “curling up with a good book.” Holding a small flat screen or a large flat screen that’s portable isn’t enough. I like the tactile aspect of holding a book, so an e-reader for me would have to look just like a hardcover book and feel like one. Maybe the computer would even be inset in the “book” itself. I’d run out and get the patent on this, but I’m sure it’s already being developed.

  3. Michael Stackpole (author) agrees with you. He does like the new technology for book selling/reading but he also wants to have paper copies of his favourite books. I agree as well.

    We have a kindle (hubby has to have the competition you know, see how it’s different from his work) and have been borrowing books from our library from it. It is seriously a fantastic idea. I’m thinking of getting one for myself so we don’t have to share. I personally think it’s important to have books out there in all forms of media because any way you can get people reading is a good thing and paper isn’t for everyone.

    Can you do me a favour? You have an iPhone yes – go to the App store and pick up one of the “Legends” books. (You’ll have to do a search, but I believe a few are free at the moment so you don’t have to splurge to indulge me) Try it out and tell me what you think of the interface/reading experience. It’s in direct competition from stanza and the other “ebook readers” and is a unique experience in that each book is an app in and of itself. I’m curious to know what people think and you’re the only person I know directly who has an iPhone or iPod touch that could test it out. I of course think Legends apps are great, but I might be biased since I’m married to the person who developed them. 🙂

  4. @Mary – We are exact opposites that way, then. 🙂 I go to the book store (Barnes & Noble) if I’m unsure I want to buy a book, browse through it a bit, and make my decision. I use the library primarily for books I’m reading for my book club that don’t strike me as amazing enough that I’d want to own them, or for biographies, things like that.

    @Brenda – You antiquarian, you. I doubt I’d ever shell out extra $$ for an e-reader either, because I’m always going to prefer a bound book. But since I’ve got the iPhone already, it’s worth trying those apps out.

  5. @Tracy – Sure! 🙂 I found a couple of free ones (the stories weren’t particularly enticing) and downloaded “Wizard Eyes”. As far as the software goes, I give it two thumbs up. Clear, simple, easy to read type. Similar to Stanza in terms of use. No problems there.
    If I’m being completely forthright, though, I have to confess to you that I don’t like the separate-app-for-each-story model, simply because I’m anal-retentive and don’t like a bunch of things cluttering up my iPhone. I get obsessive about just rearranging the apps, and take off anything that’s extraneous & I’m not using. So doing it that way would never be my cup of tea, I’d rather have one app for the software, that then has a library of titles within. For the software itself, no complaints. But I’m just not sure about the organizational setup. It might just be me, though, who knows.

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