There is a lot of talk
About this new format
Very very too much talk
This is not a rebel format
This is ‘electronic books have uses’!
–with apologies to Bono
Over the next few days or so, I’m going to be answering a number of questions about e-books and the equipment. Many questions are un-asked of me directly, but feel free to ask something in the comments section; either that question will be dealt with in a later post or – if it only needs a quick reply – it’ll be answered right below your question. Either way, no question is ‘dumb’, as long as you’re asking and listening to the answer. Not asking or not listening is the only mistake you can make here.
Here’s what we’re talking about: three devices, all simultaneously loaded with the same words, James Cooper’s The Beautiful Red. One single book purchase, but through Kobo it’s accessible on any one of your devices on which the Kobo application or software has been installed and you’ve connected to your Kobo account!
You can even use more than these things: your smart-phone, your iPhone, your iPod Touch, your iPad, your Sony eReader (and many other e-reader devices). No fuss, no muss!
All of this is wonderful, yes. Exciting, certainly. Brand-new high tech shininess, absolutely.
The real question is, obviously, what’s the point on using an e-reader device instead of – say – paperbacks or hardcovers?
First off, there’s the compact and light weight of the things: roughly the weight of a mass-market paperback, you can be carrying more than one book of any length without any increase. Also, it’s always the same size and thickness: about 1⁄2 an inch thick and five inches by seven. Neither of these things are a big deal, as the weight of even two hardbacks are hardly a massive requirement of effort. Additionally, the capacity of any of these wondrous devices to have 100, or 1,000, or even a kabillion books is also neat-sounding but hardly something that really means anything to the actual practicality of the thing: how many books can you actually read per se, and how many books are you interested in having simultaneous access to? Just as one can clear the bookshelf and put new titles on it, you can remove books from a device and load new files on it. So far there’s not a really appreciable point to the things.
Here’s something to consider, however: the cost to publishing houses of actually publishing new books, as well as maintaining older titles’ availability to people who either didn’t read them when they first came out or wish to re-read the book, have increased incredibly over the last few years. The cost of editors, writers, sales representatives, sub-editors, proof readers, and marketing teams hasn’t really changed (although some of those positions have been eliminated as cost-saving measures). The cost of printing and binding books, however, has gotten far more expensive in the recent decade, and that’s the one thing you can’t get rid of in this book-making equation.
Until now, that is.
Here’s a gallery of what my Kobo eReader looks like, just so you can see what we’re talking about here.
You’ll notice later on that it’s all fancied-up with Atomic Fez livery, which is merely an adhesive sheet that’s printed with whatever design you want. There’s a bunch that Gela Skins have pre-designed for the Kobo eReader, but you can also provide your own images through their browser-based editing/designing thing to create your own as well; hence the Atomic Fez skin. Here’s some samples of their pre-designed ones. and a few that I’ve done up myself, each showing the front and back panels of the Kobo eReader. Click any of them to see a larger version of the image.
These are not a reason to purchase an e-reader, nor are any of GelaSkins’ removable vinyl skins for protecting and customizing portable devices a reason to get a mobile phone or any other hardware. The simple reason I’m pointing this out is that some people think that the various eReader devices are ‘ugly’ or ‘boring’, and this points out that you don’t have to stick with the vanilla looking unit if you don’t want to. Kobo’s eReader comes in “porcelain” and “black”, and I’ve turned my black unit into “Atomic Fez”, so clearly you can turn yours into “Penguin Edition of On the Road”, or “Star Trek Tricorder” or “Blue Jeans” or “Honking Big Picture of My Cat”. Do not be turned off by the klunky style of the Kindle if that’s the best option for your purchase, or if you don’t like the space-age minimalism of the Apple design ethic; both can be visually changed for a small amount whilst also protecting the surface of the unit from scratching.
Over the next couple of days, I’ll be discussing the actual use of the thing, the experience of reading on the little screen versus a little rectangle of paper, and the firmware upgrade that Kobo is sending out to customers – including me – even as I type this.