The Electric Kool-Aid E-Book Test

Like pretty much every techno-readaholic on the planet, I’ve been ‘in the market’ for an eBook reader for quite some time. Not because I can instantly get books (versus an almost 2 hour drive RT). Not because I can carry dozens of books around on one lightweight device, but because I’m sick and tired of wearing glasses when I read. Between the easy-on-the-eyes eInk and the ability to increase the font size, the eBook reader and I are made for each other.

Of course, my imagination goes to other possibilities as well. As a screenwriting professor, I suffer from guilt every semester when I have to ask my students to kill small forests — all in the name of our workshops where dialogue and action are read aloud and the critiques involve rapid fire notations taken during said readings. A device which allowed edits and critiques would be more than amazing. Heck, it’d be good for the environment! In fact, something like this CourseSmart Tablet Concept would be PERFECT.

I’d hoped Apple’s iPad would be the answer to my needs. I’m an enormous fan of the iPhone — it’s the closest thing there is to a Trek tricorder (whoops, showing my geekness there – sorry). Unfortunately, the pad is backlit (hell on the eyes) and the ability to annotate appears minimal.

There’s also the issue of per eBook cost. Afterall, the point of buying an eBook reader is to READ (i.e. BUY!) books.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple is still haggling with publishers, but they’re recommending e-book prices be set at $12.99 or $14.99, well above the $9.99-or-less price point Amazon offers for the Kindle. And don’t forget, there’s also two other top contenders out there in eBook land: Barnes & Noble’s THE NOOK and Sony’s eReader. Not to mention a good dozen other offerings, plus more on the way. For right now, however, the aforementioned three are the the most popular. Therefore, I did a bit of comparison shopping for 12 books that are either recent reads or on my current ‘to read’ list. Here’s what I found out price-wise:

Author/Title Nook Sony Kindle
Allen Steele/Coyote Horizon 14.97 18.97 7.19
Stephen King/Under the Dome 9.99 9.99 9.99
Mary Doria Russell/Dreamers of the Day 9.99 9.99 9.99
Margaret Atwood/The Year of the Flood 9.99 9.99 9.99
Paul Melko/The Walls of the Universe 14.27 18.16 N/A
Elizabeth Bear/By the Mountain Bound 9.99 18.16 N/A
Clifford Simak/Empire 2.99 5.39 3.65
CC Finlay/Demon Redcoat 6.39 7.99 6.39
SG-1/Do No Harm N/A N/A 6.36
ST: DS9/Neverending Sacrifice N/A N/A 6.39
Michio Kaku/Physics of the Impossible 9.32 11.17 9.32

On the one hand, it seems like Kindle is the best deal out there for eBooks. On the other hand, I’m disappointed that certain SF titles aren’t available in eBook format through Amazon..though I suspect Amazon’s imposed price ceiling might have something to do with that. Note how Melko and Bear’s books are in the upper teens over at B&N’s Nook and Sony’s store… yet they’re not available yet from Amazon’s Kindle store.

I also find it interesting that two different media tie-in publishers, Fandemonium for Stargate and Pocket for Star Trek, have made their books available only through Amazon.

If I haven’t brought you any closer to making a decision about an eBook reader, you’re not alone. I continue to lean toward the Kindle due to pricing and availability, but when I see gadgets like the iPad, or better yet, this recent demo of Microsoft’s Courier – their possible foray into the tablet market – I can’t help but feel that a bit more waiting might pan out. In the meantime, I’ll use my Kindle for iPhone when necessary.

Don’t worry — I still plan on purchasing particular authors physical books for my collection — but great stories should transcend medium. Storywise, a bound book should have no higher value over a collection of zeroes and ones. Through the past 5,000 years, we’ve managed to move from cave paintings to stone tablets to papryi to wax tablets to paper to digits. Through it all, story is story, no matter what.

diana

SF Writer. Screenwriting Professor. Insanity ensues day and night. Science Fiction is my wheelhouse.

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