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More about e-readers

Marco Arment posted a thoughtful reply to my off-the-cuff post about e-readers and I wanted to respond to a couple of things.

Most people won’t instantly jump to buy ebook readers after seeing them in TV commercials or liveblogged keynotes. They need to be experienced in person. (The ability to do this easily will give Barnes & Noble a huge advantage over Amazon.) And they’ll spread via good, old-fashioned, in-person referrals from friends and coworkers.

I want a good e-reader more than anything…I instantly fell for the screen when I saw the Sony Libre a few years ago. I do a *ton* of reading, upwards of 100-150 pages a day when I’m working full-time. About 0.5% of those pages are from books. But the Kindle? I tried it and didn’t like it. The screen is still great…the rest of it didn’t work at all for me. And this is what is frustrating for me…the Kindle seemed right for buying books but not for what I want it for: reading all that other stuff. I know the functionality exists on these devices to read blogs, magazines, newspapers, etc., but they’re marketed as book readers (Arment even calls them “ebook readers” instead of “e-readers”), the user experience is optimized for book reading, and the companies (esp. Amazon and B&N) view them as portable bookstores.

But there are a lot of people โ€” including, significantly, most people over age 40 - who don’t like reading tiny text on bright LCD screens in devices loaded with distractions that die after 5 hours without their electric lifeline.

Agreed. I don’t particularly enjoy reading text on the iPhone; I’d prefer a larger e-ink screen. Instapaper support on the Kindle was almost enough to make me get one…but not quite yet.

Most of Kottke’s problem with ebook readers can be solved in software

The problem isn’t that you can’t route around Amazon’s design decisions with clever hacks, but that Amazon chose to optimize the device for reading (and buying) books. I.e. the software *is* the problem. That is not so easily solved…to do so, Amazon has to address it. And maybe they will. I hope they do.

I’m not including RSS feeds or PDFs in the discussion. RSS feeds aren’t reading: they’re alerting, discovering and filtering.

Off-topic, but this isn’t my experience. I’d say about 30-50% of my reading is done directly in my newsreader…there are plently of blogs out there that aren’t link blogs or Tumblrs.