Problems and Solutions for E-Readers
Cabot Weekly Review: Round Two
In Case You Missed It
Every day on my lunch break, I push away from the computer and crack open a book. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day because I get to travel to another time and place without ever leaving my office. It’s especially nice this time of year when the cold and snow make going outside an uninviting prospect.
(To date, I’ve traveled to William Faulker’s Yoknapatawpha County, Jane Austen’s England and aboard Herman Melville’s Pequod, among many others.)
As you can probably tell, I love books. My grandmother once described me as a voracious reader and as I was very young at the time, I misunderstood her characterization and thought she called me a ferocious reader. I think that term applies as well.
So I was very excited when e-readers were first introduced, both because I love reading and, like many others of my generation, I love new technology.
But my excitement soon wore off when my list of negatives about the e-readers topped my list of positives. While e-readers are lightweight and seemingly perfect for the avid traveler (another one of my great loves), I see a lot of downsides that have thus far stopped me from getting one.
First of all is the cost. You have to buy the e-readers for several hundred dollars knowing full well that better models will likely replace them in a few months or a year. On top of the cost to purchase the device, you then have to purchase the books you want to read for nearly the same price as a regular book (though many bestsellers are discounted from the hard- or soft-cover price).
Buying printed books can get expensive, but discount sites like Amazon.com offer them for much less than the list price, making it relatively easy to purchase your favorite tomes for your home library.
One of my biggest gripes about the e-readers is that you can’t share the books with anyone else. My mom and I enjoy most of the same types of books and we live close enough that we share nearly everything we read. If I purchased an e-reader, I would not be able to do that (unless my mom and I were on the same Amazon.com Kindle account). If you’ve bought the book, it’s yours, right? Apparently not always …
You’re also ditching the library, one of my favorite places. Here in Massachusetts, my library is connected to more than 40 other libraries, guaranteeing that I can get nearly any book I want when I want. And it’s free!
You’re also committing to one technology–whether it’s Amazon.com’s Kindle, one of Sony’s multiple e-readers or Barnes & Noble’s Nook–and that leaves little flexibility to change as time goes by. What happens to all those books you purchased if you decide to shift from the Nook to the Kindle?
If you stay with regular old books made out of paper, you can keep them forever. And share them with your friends and family. The technology isn’t going to go bad, and barring a house fire or flood, you can keep books for your whole lifetime … and then pass them on to your kids and their kids … well, you get the idea.
But I’m not writing off e-readers yet. My biggest solution is that one of the e-reader distributors should come up with a Netflix-like subscription for e-books.
As at a paid library, you’ll be able to access myriad books at any time. But they won’t be yours to keep. You can have the book on your device as long as it takes to read and can’t check out another one until you return the book you have now.
This would solve many of the problems I see with the e-reader technology.
You wouldn’t have to pass the books around to your friends anymore; you could just tell them what you enjoyed reading and they could reserve it themselves. A social interface where you can rate titles and write little reviews (like Netflix offers) would be a great way to share what you enjoyed, or didn’t, with people you know.
The cost would be less because you’d pay a monthly fee for a certain number of books. And for people like me, that would be a great deal. I probably read about four books a month, so I definitely feel like I’d be getting my money’s worth.
And you wouldn’t be beholden to one technology because the books wouldn’t really be yours, so there would be no risk of switching to another service if you dislike the e-reader you picked initially.
Whatever direction the e-readers go in, I think the technology is just getting off the ground and the future potential is enormous. This is only the first generation of what is going to be a huge mass market as people start reading more from devices and less from books made from trees.
I’m sure there are many other ideas out there that could improve the e-reader technology and someone is likely already working on the idea I proposed above. (I sure hope so!) But I’d like to hear what you think: Do you own an e-reader? What are the benefits and disadvantages? What would you do to make the experience even better?
Send your responses to me by commenting below. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/IconoInvestor
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In case you didn’t get a chance to read all the issues of Cabot Wealth Advisory this week and want to catch up on any investing and stock tips you might have missed, I have links below to each issue.
Cabot Wealth Advisory 1/18/10 – Good Grief!
On Monday, Timothy Lutts discussed the history of Haiti and suggested what could be done to improve the country’s future as it rebuilds after being devastated by an earthquake. Tim weighed in on the Google vs. China controversy and the then-impending Senate race in Massachusetts. And Tim featured a letter written in response to his story about the death of a Johnson & Johnson heiress. Tim finished by discussing a simple great investment. Featured stock: NBTY Inc. (NTY).
Cabot Wealth Advisory 1/20/10 – Envisioning a 100% Renewable Energy World
On Thursday, Brendan Coffey discussed what would happen if we all resolved to live in a 100% renewable energy world and what our energy supplies would look like in the future. Brendan also discussed the huge carbon market and the possibility of a cap-and-trade program in the U.S. Brendan finished by recommending a little-known Cabot Green Investor stock with big potential. Featured stock: Maxwell Technologies (MXWL).
Until next time,
Editor of Cabot Wealth Advisory
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