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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I will have you, Sony Reader

This just isn't fair. I don't mean to whinge but in this case I think I am entitled. I have inherited being a gadget freak from my dad, and though I will never be half as knowledgeable as he is about all things Electronic, I sure do appreciate a geeky device when I see one.

The device in question is the new ebook from Sony, the Reader. In case you haven't picked up on how much of a dork I am already, let me tell you a little story that will convert those of you still on the fence about my geek status.

In an issue of WIRED a few years back (already, nerd alarm bells should be ringing loudly), there was a great feature on a new generation of handhelds, called ebooks. That's shorthand for 'electronic books'. There were three models being previewed, and all had their pros and cons but the one model that stood out was shaped just like a paperback book with the front cover folded back. It was designed to fit in your hand as if you were reading a real novel, so it felt right, only you didn't have to worry about the spine breaking or too many pages being folded back at once. They were all backlit nicely so they were easy on the eyes, and they managed to have displays big enough to be simple to read, and the page on the screen corresponded to the page in the actual printed version of the book. Weight wasn't really an issue with them and some had other bells and whistles like date books, addresses, etc., but their main raison d'etre was to be an electronic book for you.

I love to read. I love to buy books. I love to hoard books. I tend to have way more books than I need at any given time. So you can see why an ebook appeals to me, geeky pleasures aside. It'd be so cool to have the equivalent of five books in my pocket at once! I don't tend to be in the middle of just one book at a time, but rather two or three. I'm not bragging here at all, it's just I guess I have a short attention span and can't read more than a few chapters at a time without then having to work at it. The moment reading a book feels like homework, I stop. Sure, there are those rare ones that are real 'grippers' and I just can't put them down, but this is the exception and not the rule.

The way these ebooks work is they are just like your iPod except that instead of music or podcasts, you are downloading books. I should mention, the ebook concept was around several years before the iPod, only they obviously didn't catch on like the iPods have. Until now: I think this Sony Reader is going to really change the book industry, for a number of reasons. First, I noticed how they are already selling more of them than they thought they would, although I'm sure the holiday season has a little something to do with that. Second, now that the iPod has revolutionized the music industry in its own way, it seems only natural that this phenomenon would carry over to this other medium of pop culture. Third, with this increasingly de-forested/landfilled planet we live on, it seems about time we had a way to buy a book and read it without generating so much waste. It's really shameful how many stripped paperbacks end up in the dump every day.

But I don't want to stand on my soapbox about that right now. I'd rather just moan about the fact that this very fresh, revolutionary, uber-cool, ELECTRONIC book is now available and I. Can't. Have. It.

That's right, "No Sony Reader for you!" You can't buy one outside of the United States. And even were I to smuggle one in here a la Christmas as a present for the Brooksie, it would only sit on my shelf, a lifeless hunk of silicon and metal. You see, they also won't sell the actual electronic books off of their website, called Connect, to anyone not in the U.S. I'm sure it has more than a little to do with royalties, and I totally understand that.

What distresses me is what I know of the current iTunes situation regarding New Zealand. You can buy iTunes in lots of countries, including Australia. But you can't buy them here in NZ, because of some gayness with the Aussie dollar vs. the Kiwi dollar. They fear that if they enable iTunes to be sold over in Kiwi-land, all the Aussies will just plug in to the NZ market and buy the tunes for a cheaper relative price. Something like that. Anyways, it's pretty clear from the iTunes forums that Apple is in no hurry to enable iTunes to be sold anytime soon - if ever - in New Zealand.

If you extrapolate that crappy situation into a potential scenario involving Sony's ebooks, you'll start to see what I mean. And now you understand the nature of my petulance. So I could have a nice shiny new Sony Reader, but aside from being something pretty to look at, it would be nothing more than expensive eye candy. Just like my third wife.

Haha, just a little ex-wife humor there for you kids, it's nothing serious.

Maybe, just maybe, Sony won't be like Apple and will let the rest of the world get a crack at their snazzy new Reader. If and when they open the floodgates on their Connect service, they'd best be lettin' us Kiwis through the door as well!

Until that happens, however, you can find me at the used book store, making some more trades.


Oh yeah, and I'll be 'offline' for a few days. Gotta go back to Christchurch, see a man about a horse. Actually, a cat. Three cats. My cats from the States are here and they've almost finished serving out their 30-day sentences for being felines abroad without passports. They're being turned over to me on probationary status so keep your fingers crossed for the little ratbags. Also keep your fingers crossed for smooth sailing for the trip back across the Cook Strait. See you all later.



Blogger Beechball * said...

Have a safe trip and you better post lots of pictures of your furry babies - I love cats! :P Also, about the ebook, I am sorry to hear about your situation, it really sucks. It does sound like a super cool concept and I am sure I know a few people who would be interesting in such a gadget (even ME) but alas, I am not made of money and I am SURE they cost a pretty penny. And these ebooks... are they things you download from the computer? Couldn't someone else DL them for you, you pay them, and they sent/email them to you? or somethinG? I dunno... I think might be arrested for suggesting this, so um.. I'm just kidding! haha :P Bye for now!!

1:51 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Pictures coming soon, no worries! Actually your idea is a very good one, and is probably the only way around the current situation. I need to look into the 'portability' of Reader files, once downloaded. Also, I could just load up on books every time I'm in the States, or just buy one in the hopes that they'll be available worldwide at some point, unlike iTunes (as far as NZ goes, at least). Thanks for the suggestion, I'm sure I'll sort this out somehow!

12:35 AM  

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