Thursday, 20 May 2010

Borderless eBook Reader

Since my previous post discusses eBook readers amongst other issues, I thought I might dedicate the next post (this one) to Borders' Kobo eBook reader which was launched in Australia today.
You can read about it here, but here's the gist of it: Borders' eBook is a lot like Amazon's Kindle in the sense that it uses the same electronic ink screen (as opposed to the iPad's LCD screen) and that you can get free Windows and iPhone applications on which you can also read the same books and which are even synchronized. That is, you get to page 17 on the iPhone and the next time you open the book on your PC it would start from page 17. The main difference between the two, Borders and Kindle, is in the Borders' eBook reader not acquiring the books through a cellular connection but rather by connecting it to a PC. far better, if you ask me, because it means that Borders can't just decide it removes all your books from your e-reader the way Amazon can.
All in all, at this stage I find the Borders deal quite attractive. Much more attractive than the Amazon-Kindle one, for the following reasons (note I'm saying this before seeing the Borders unit in first person):
  1. The reader is incredibly simple, small and light. It's 200 grams light and it's the size of a very thin paperback. Yet it can carry 1000 books.
  2. The Borders unit already comes packed with 100 free books. Sure, these are old books out of copyright protection, but it's still a nice gesture.
  3. The Borders iPhone experience is far superior to the Kindle one. Books are better cataloged and searching for new books is done through the Borders app itself, unlike the Kindle version that opens a separate browser and sends you to the mercy of the internet.
  4. The Borders eBook reader sells for $200, about half the price of the Kindle.
So, am I buying one? Despite my complaints about DRM and the fact that any eBook you buy today and wish to read in a few years time would probably needs to be re-purchased, I was quite tempted. At $200 for the reader and at half the price for the books themselves it becomes financially viable to buy the same books again in the future when you take into account the fact you'd only want to re-read a minority of the books.
Yes, I was tempted by the Borders option. But only till the point I actually started browsing the Borders catalog through my iPhone, looking for authors whose books I have recently bought as indicators for the books I am likely to wish to purchase in the future. Here's what I've found:
  1. Isaac Asimov: Four eBooks available from this author who wrote many hundreds of books.
  2. Richard Dawkins: Three eBooks available.
  3. Robert Heinlein: None available.
  4. John Scalzi: None available.
  5. Carl Sagan: None available.
In short, book availability is a joke. What is the point of committing yourself to a specific format if, no matter how attractive and sexy it is, you can't get any worthwhile content for it?

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