Books written by Ray Sullivan

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Beginner's Guide to E-Readers - Part 1

In this short series I'm going to focus on the pleasant problem I reckon a lot of people are going to have this year - choosing an e-reader as a Christmas present or for themselves.  Certainly in the UK the e-reader market looks set to explode over the next twelve months and the products being lined up by just two main suppliers alone - Amazon and WH Smith - indicate the Christmas period is likely to be very aggressive.

I'll look at the various e-reader choices soon, but before that I want to explain the advantages and the differences in the various devices that can be used to read e-books and to discuss some of the techno mumbo jumbo that can confuse consumers venturing out for the first time.

So let's let's look at the raw material for e-readers - ebooks - first.  Essentially these are books in electronic format, just as this blog is. 

Historically books have been typed, then typeset, then printed on paper, bound and covered before being shipped to the local bookstore.  In more recent times the typewriter has all but been replaced by the word processor, a term that has meant different things to people over the last twenty years or so but now pretty much means a program such as Microsoft Word or the various products that aim to cover the same ground.  Books that were written many years ago may never have existed in electronic format and may never do so if the book owners choose that to be the case.  Similarily, there are a growing number of ebooks that have never appeared as a printed book and I suspect never will.

The trend is currently for a significant number of mainstream books to be published in traditional book format and also in ebook format.  It's not universal and it certainly isn't being fully embraced by all traditional publishers.  It's also not always the case that publishers of ebooks from the traditional end of the market pass on any of the production savings, either, and that's a bone of contention with me.  For the purpose of this series it suffices for me to point out that ebooks aren't always the most cost effective way of buying books, especially when dealing with mainstream authors, however there are also a lot of more competitively priced books from independent authors as well as a huge amount of free books ranging from out-of-copyright classics to new authors trying to get some market exposure.  Additionally, and this really is a personal opinion, I believe that as the ebook market matures the pressure to market all books at more realistic prices will increase.

Although all ebooks will be created in a program like Word initially, the format they are distributed in varies.  Many e-readers will 'read' Word documents, however generally ebooks aren't distributed in that format.  To all intents and purposes there's two distinct formats that ebooks are produced in - EPUB, which is an industry standard that's used by Sony, Apple, Kobo and many other device manufacturers - and MOBI which is primarily used in Amazon Kindles.  Most e-readers will also allow PDF documents to be read, however if you are thinking in terms of dedicated e-readers (as opposed to multi-function devices such as the Apple iPad) then PDF format really won't make the best use of your device. 

So, the first decision you need to think about right now, if you're on the fence wondering if ebooks and e-readers might be for you, is this:  can you obtain the range of books you would want to read and is the price of those books acceptable.  If you already have a strong opinion about which device you would buy if the answer to the question is yes, then spend some time researching the relevant websites - Amazon for Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo, WH Smith, Barnes & Noble plus many others if you favour EPUB.  If you're reading this with a view to buying someone an e-reader as a surprise, then try and do the same activity, but focussing on their likely reading choices.

However you may want to wait until the next posting in this series before investing in that activity, because I'm going to discuss the broad options available to you in terms of dedicated e-readers and multi-function devices.

I can be followed onTwitter - @RayASullivan

email me on

Visit my books on
Amazon (for Kindle owners) and Smashwords (for access to all other formats and access to Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, Sony and many other good ebookstores

Now on WH Smith!

No comments:

Post a Comment