Do I really need something else to carry?

Taking your library with you everywhere — it sounds exciting. But it also sounds like yet another thing to try to cram into my purse.

(NYT) Over the last eight months, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and a range of smaller companies have released book-reading software for the iPhone and other mobile devices. One out of every five new applications introduced for the iPhone last month was a book, according to Flurry, a research firm that studies mobile trends.

All of that activity raises a question: Does the future of book reading lie in dedicated devices like the Kindle, or in more versatile gadgets like mobile phones?

One of my main reasons for resisting e-readers like the Kindle or the upcoming Nook — though I confess I’m getting increasingly curious and would love to try one out, if not commit to a long-term relationship — is that I’m an iPhone user. As I’m sure my Blackberry sisters will also agree, I’ve gotten turned around to the idea of having everything in one little device. Phone/texting, Internet and email, handheld gaming device, GPS, music player, address book, checkbook, remote control for my home stereo, satellite radio. These are all things that I’ve got in one little unit. I don’t want a whole different unit for just reading books. My mind doesn’t go in that direction anymore. Reading an e-book on my iPhone, with either Amazon’s or Barnes & Noble’s or standalone software like ZappTek’s Legends, is more appealing. But there’s a price — that small screen. Still, I’m not sure the cons outweigh the pros.

I think it’s possible the forthcoming Apple Tablet, with its far more ample screen size and yet relative portability, may be a gamechanger, especially if you can sync books between your desktop, iPhone/iPod Touch and Tablet, giving you lots of options for where and how you can read your books. I don’t know about you all, but I’m enough of a book geek that the idea of having my top five favorite books (The Mists of Avalon, Anna Karenina, Tigana, Dune and The Color Purple) in hardcover/paperback, and on my iPhone, and on my desktop, and in my portable tablet computer, sounds drool-worthy. I would never be without them! I could read them however I want to, wherever! And that school of thought might influence other manufacturers to think along the same lines. Or, I’m over-the-top crazy when it comes to books. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: book-crazy people are the only people who can make e-readers and e-books work. People who are non-readers just won’t care. So if you can’t win over the book-nuts, you’re sunk.

In the meantime, the iPhone’s screen is somewhat small for extended reading. Having used it myself, I will say it is surprisingly pleasant to use. I didn’t experience any trouble with the text size or my eyes getting tired. Of course I wouldn’t want to read everything that way, but for the time being, it’s been an adequate way to read on the go — when I’ve been stuck in a long line or showed up too early for a meeting. And most importantly, it doesn’t take up any extra purse acreage.

6 thoughts on “Do I really need something else to carry?

  1. Goodness, you plugged our software! Thanks bunches! 😀

    I hear you on the one device thing. I don’t have a “one device that does everything” myself but the hubby is increasingly aware that carrying an iPod touch, laptop, phone (and sometimes iPod shuffle) is becoming a pain and he’d really like to invest in an iPhone when his current phone contract expires.

    According to him (and he’s a bit of an apple nut), the Tablet is still just a rumour. Apple is working on it but it may not be ready this fall, though all the pundits are saying it will be released soon. We’ll have to see I guess. Personally, I’m lusting over a netbook. A notebook computer small enough to carry with me everywhere I go? With internet? With the ability to just write when the inspiration strikes me? That’s too good to be true. One of these days I’ll make it happen. 🙂

  2. Oh and I was also going to say, the hubby is also figuring that books on the iPhone are definitely not the way to go, at least not for developers. Unless you’re a very dedicated reader, you can’t find them on the App store, given the new way they’ve configured it. He had me try the other day and damned if I could figure out exactly HOW to get to the book section. On the iPod, sure, on the computer, it’s useless. Apple is obviously using the App store to sell more hardware (ipod touches and iphones) than it is about software. They would actually prefer all software be free, then it’s a better deal for future customers to buy one of their devices because they can get lots of free stuff for it. Books aren’t selling well at all, even among avid readers.

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  4. I have to disagree. Current marketing reports indicate that books are huge in the iTunes app store.
    According to research/marketing firm Flurry, Book apps have outpaced game apps. Further, the Amazon Kindle iPhone app is downloaded like crazy, as is the B&N version, and Stanza.

    As far as the App Store goes, on the computer — assuming you have the latest iTunes release — go to the iTunes Store. Click on “App Store”, holding it down so the drop-down menu appears. “Books” is the very first subcategory. Or, just search. Mind you, I don’t love the interface, it could be nicer, that’s for sure.

    No one in their right mind thinks the Apple Tablet is going to appear this fall. 🙂 It’s far more realistic to think of it in terms of 2010; the date being tossed around right now is the “first quarter of 2010”, but that may even be optimistic. However, while there has not been an official announcement from Apple regarding its release, industry insiders are pretty clear that it’s definitely happening at some point. Mainstream media have been reporting that the Tablet is Steve Jobs’ primary focus right now, since summer:

  5. Well according to people SELLING the books, they’re not selling much at all. Books are never in the “top 100 apps” so I’m not sure what that report is on about. The fact also is that while people are buying the Kindle and B&N apps, they’re generally purchasing the older books – ie, the ones that you can get for free elsewhere because they’re in the public domain. The newer books aren’t selling nearly as well – Legends certainly isn’t, and most of the new books that are out there are priced the same as, or nearly the same as, the hard copy version so people aren’t buying the app as (like you) they’re rather have the paper in their hands.

    The hubby had me do the search for books on itunes (and yes we do have the latest version) because I’m completely computer illiterate and so I would have no idea that I had to hold down “app store”. I clicked on it and looked and nowhere did it say books. The only things on the front page listed ANYWHERE are games. They’re very obviously pushing the games much harder because they make more money that way and because games generally appeal to the larger buying public. The interface sucks and the company is not trying to market books at all, nor anything else except games and shit like the beer and fart apps that people buy. (I’ve no clue why.) From a developer’s perspective, it’s a horrible place to sell books and try to sell any apps at all. Apple is making it very difficult with their awful storefront and all sorts of crappy rules about what you can submit.

  6. E-books on the iPhone may not currently be profitable for developers, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t popular or successful amongst users. It depends on your point of view, of course. I think developers in lots of areas — games, books, whatever — have said that Apple and the iTunes store is frustrating to deal with, stringent and sometimes arbitrary. I can see why it’s not a promising line of development to be in. I’m sorry your husband and his company or others (which I linked to in my original post, btw, as a shout-out to you) are not doing well. But the current trends, downloaded apps, and, as the report (which industry experts consider authoritative) mentioned above states, books on the iPhone are on an upswing in popularity, and all signs indicate this will be a growth area for Apple in 2010. Their business model is very tied to their various segments — hardware, software, retail, support — tying into each other. If it’ll sell tablets, and I think it would, they’ll push ebooks. And vice versa, and so on.

    The iTunes Store had a general makeover with its latest version 9 release. All of the sub-menus are drop-down style. I think it’s 100% valid for you, as a “non-user” to say that design is not intuitive. In some ways I agree with you, though I think it’s aesthetically more pleasing than the old design. But that’s a store-wide criticism, for one thing, not just for books and book apps. Also, there’s a learning curve. When iTunes 9 updated, there was a tutorial that came with it that explained the new menu system. I don’t think you should have to use a tutorial to buy something, but at least they were there. I like using the “non-user” to test things, I do it myself all the time. But it also helps to see how regular users of the program can handle it. Lots of people use iTunes a lot. Those people wouldn’t have any trouble finding books.

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