Whatever Happened to eBooks?

Rocket eBook Reader

(The Rocket eBook, circa 1999. The company no longer has a website…)

In my last post I detailed the many and wondrous applications currently installed on my spiffy Nokia E61i. There was another bit of software on there for a scant few days before it was unceremoniously dumped — Mobipocket Reader, an eBook reader for Nokia’s Symbian OS. And the reason I trashed it is because I couldn’t for the life of me find anything worth reading on it!

I should point out that I really, really, REALLY like the idea of eBooks… The a-ha moment for me came way back in the last century during a flight while enjoying a free sample from Peanut Press (now eReader.com) on my Palm of the day, when I discovered that I could conserve power by inverting the display — that is, display lit text on a black background rather than the other way around. This effectively meant that I could read in the dark without frying my eyeballs, or waking the lucky person in bed next to me…

Now I wouldn’t classify myself as an avid reader, and a big part of that is because I find the hardware cumbersome. I’ve no need (or shelf space for that matter) to show off my literary tastes to visitors, and when I’m travelling I really don’t need a monstrous hardcover tome taking up valuable carry-on space where chargers and cables for my laptop and phone could go!

Magazines are even better suited for the eBook format, especially if you consider the web connectivity of most modern PDAs — clickable ads, anyone?. One of my guilty pleasures is a subscription to Mobile Choice which I pay through the nose for, mostly because every monthly issue has to find its way to my home from the UK… Think of the cash both me and Mobile Choice could save with a monthly download instead!

And yet there isn’t even a category listing for Magazines on the Mobipocket front page. As for books, here are Mobipocket’s three top-selling titles:

  1. Electronic Pocket Oxford English & Thesaurus Value Pack
  2. Ultimate Bible Study Suite
  3. Ultimate Handheld Classics Library – Over 1,000 Complete Works!

… Not quite The New York Times Bestseller List, is it?

So what exactly is going on here? There is still at least one active eBook-reading community out there, but a recent Ask Engadget poll on the subject of eBook devices has received zero replies!

Is it the hassle of Digital Rights Management that’s keeping the eBook revolution at bay? Or is everyone just reading books for free on the sly at their local Chapters?

Either way, it looks like I’ll be lugging some extra weight with me to the airport on Friday, and I’m not too happy about it!


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5 responses to “Whatever Happened to eBooks?”

  1. AC:

    I got the eBook app with my Palm E2, and despite being thrilled with the idea of a backlit page for the subway, I found it awkward. I had to max up the font for my poor eyes, which meant I got about 2 sentences per “page,” which meant constant scrolling. So I deleted the app because it couldn’t replace the bound book.


  2. Funny, I wouldn’t have pegged you as the large-print type…


    I guess audio books, podcasts and converted videos are also competing for commuters’ eyes and ears these days?

  3. To be honest, eBooks have never made sense to me because most of our gadgets have still got tiny screens in comparison to a normal book. So personally, its either books, or audio books. I have tried reading books on screens before, but my eyes get sore quite quickly and the process is just not enjoyable. They will never replaced the bound version for me. Audio books are also great for when you are working (i.e., like painting me house this summer) or when you are sick.

  4. Hey Elias,

    I checked the selection on Audible.com (through the iTunes Music Store) and they do indeed seem to have a better selection than any eBook site, but they’re still not quite up there with Amazon or Chapters, yet…

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