Last year Sony started selling an E Book reader…made some waves, but not a hit.

But now the 300 pound gorilla of booksellers, Amazon, is launching their version of the e-book, called Kindle.

Now, I love Amazon—I can buy anything there, from medical textbooks to used treasures. They now sell music mp3 downloads (which I haven’t tried) and movies (which I can’t download here in the Philippines). They used to sell audiobooks, but now a separate company, Audible, is usually where they refer you to download your books.

But there are lots of free downloads for books and even audiobooks, and since I’m on a small budget, these sites have been a valuable resource.

Now, I’ve used e books for years. When I bought my palmpocket years ago, I chose one which included medical books already installed, and then added the huge 1000 page PDR. Not only could I easily look up tests or disease or the dosages of medicines I didn’t use every day, but it included a book for patients to read: I’d often let them read it there, and then print it out for them to take home.

And, if the 6 year old was tearing up my office, I’d hand it to them to play games or use the built in camera to keep them quiet while I talked to mom.

So is there an advantage of using an e book reader for doctors? Maybe…if you don’t have a palmpocket, and your clinic hasn’t already changed to using a tablet computer for paperless records. Nevertheless, often it was just easier to look it up on a medical site (there are several good ones) or sometimes just google the disease.

Wegener’s granulomatosis? No problem. Schistosomiasis? Been there, done that.
And for “new” diseases like last week’s cold virus from hell, the internet is the fastest way to find information.

But what about leisure reading?

Well, I had bought and downloaded a few e books from Amazon. I prefer dead wood editions, but unless I was going to Manila, until last year there was no book store in our town: it was ebook or nothing.
But these e books had two problems:

One: You couldn’t just download them and read them on another computer. You had to go on line and reaffirm you were you. Quite a pain when power outages that crashed your hard drive are common and where viruses are even more common. And never mind lending it to a friend. They won’t be able to open it without a confirmation.
Two: The e books were just as expensive as the paper ones.

On Amazon today, their Ebook subsidiary (Mobipocket.com) does sell ebooks…at about the same price as you can buy a dead tree version.

This is puzzling, since the cost of paper, printing them, and distributing them is minimal.

So will Amazon’s e book succeed? There might be a small niche for readers who like to read on planes or trains, or those who don’t want books cluttering up the house, or those like myself live overseas and don’t want to pay postage to buy a dead tree version.

But the geeks are skeptical.

Information Week is even more skeptical:

The book is a time-tested device. It works, always, provided there’s light and the opportunity to concentrate. It requires no manual. It can be dropped, rained on or otherwise neglected and it’ll probably still work

But as the IPod proved, there could be a way to make e books a hit. Hint: Make downloads cheap, and it might.

Nearly all my books are used, because my budget is limited. Make a book download cheap, and e books will take off. Sell them for the same price as a new tree based book, and make it difficult to read them on different computers or lend them to friends, and people will not use them.

And instead of marketing to those of us who already have computers, find a new market.

Have book clubs offer Kindle with a year of $1 downloads for every book on their list. You might make a profit.

But, of course, a lot of us who have laptops aren’t going to buy a fancy e book reader just to read books when our Macbook or palmpocket will do. And why pay $399 for an “e book reader” when you can buy the Linux base ASUS eeePC for $399 or the OneLaptop per child computer offer (one for you, one for a poor kid) for $400?

And yes, I’ll have a “grandmom’s guide to Linux: EEEPC” review up…as soon as it arrives (It must be hot it’s on backorder). My grandson Luke  promised to check it out first before he sends it to me.

If it’s as good as the geek websites say it is, I’ll probably get it by Easter….Luke tends to be very thorough…
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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

 

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