To help us test the Kindle, Amazon kindly bunged Register Hardware $30 of credit which we promptly spent on the e-book of the complete Lord of the Rings, the download taking only a matter of moments over a 3G connection before magically appearing in our library.
Better value than paper books?
The purchase set us back $20.29 (£12.50) which is exactly the same amount Waterstones wants for the paperback, though the RRP in £19.99. Waterstones is selling the ePub e-book for £14.71 in the UK. Anthony Beevor's Stalingrad can be picked up for $9.37 (£5.80) on the Kindle which is a bargain, while Robert Fisk's Age of the Warrior will set you back $13.79 (£8.50) - otherwise a £9.99 physical purchase in your local WH Smiths.
Since Amazon expects most Kindle users to buy content from, well, Amazon, the Kindle's primary e-book format is Amazon's own AZW, though it can also handle DRM-free Mobipocket files. If you ask us, an e-book reader that doesn't support ePub is a bit of a three-legged nag. Despite what Amazon may think, ePub is now the e-book standard with even Sony - never a company to relish the adoption of technologies it didn't invent - recently converting its entire DRM e-book library to the format.
The real advantage of any e-book reader is that you can head over the likes of Feedbooks and grab the entire output of Jane Austen, HG Wells, Dickens and Tolstoy, and not pay a penny. Thankfully, Feedbooks offers its content in Mobipocket format as well as ePub and PDF.
Speaking of PDF, after having run an over-the-air firmware update, our sample Kindle acquired the ability to show PDF files. However, the PDF update was only partially worthwhile. Yes, PDF files now show up in the device's library, but there's no zoom function so we're stuck with the basic full-page view. You can increase the text size by swapping the view from portrait to landscape but that really is no substitute for the ability to zoom and reflow.
Not the best e-book reader for viewing PDF documents
Incidentally, when browsing Tolkien's epic we came across another problem: the maps could only be magnified to full page size which left them largely illegible.
And there lies the fail
I actually have an ebook reader, but I buy nothing with drm. If I buy a paper book I can pass it on down the generations, lend it to friends, give it to charity or a school, sell it on, etc etc.
But if I were to purchase a drm ebook from Amazon or the like, I am only hoping, probably in vain, that they will still be around in 10/20/30/40 years time, that their drm servers are still running, that they still support the old formats, etc.
Say my friend has a Sony, how can I lend a book to him ? I want to sell a book six years down the line ? "Oh, I can't" they say. Well fcuk them so. Until drm is extinguished, piracy will be just as prevalent as it is/was with music.
So it's got quite a few features less than the US edition, is missing several formats from its repertoire, has crippled web browsing, and the books are still ludicrously expensive (an e-book should not cost the same as a paperback, end of).
Riiight. No ta.
Well, quite @AC
When I have finished with a book I lend it out, give it to Oxfam, leave it in a hotel library, or liberate them in public places (http://www.bookcrossing.com/)
I can put it in a box, bury it, and in 400 years someone can dig it up and read it.
When it goes out of copyright, people will still have access to it - they won't have to beg some lomg-dead company to unlock it.
ebooks? beyond the Gutenburg project, no thanks.
Oh, and as for the people who want to charge me 90% of the price of the physical object - just how gullible do you think I am?
I don't want an eBook reader
I want a good PDF reader. I'm not interested in ePub or AWX?V or any of these other, frankly silly, formats that publishers are pushing. A book reader is already a significant downgrade from a paper book in everything except portability (which doesn't matter at home); I don't want one that's crippled even further.
It's PDF or nothing.
Audio books win hands down & eyes closed!
I listen to audio books on my iPod, with my eyes closed!
Audio books are DRM free (or can be) and are cheap and freely available on utorrent*
* not that any of us would do this.