Monday, 15 December 2008

e-Readers and their Evil Price Tags

by Faith Bicknell-Brown

I hate e-books!

I hate reading at my computer!

I want a print book in my hands if I’m going to read a book!

e-Books will never catch on!

Grr! Such comments irk me to no end, but part of the reason that readers have the above opinions is due to the price of electronic readers. What normal Joe can buy an e-reader at the current prices?

As publishing changes, so do the formats of books. Over the years, publishers have gone from the smeared ink of typesetting the old-fashioned leather-bound volumes to tiny print, giant print, mass-market paperbacks, trade paperbacks, audio books, and now the e-book.

The trouble is that people are creatures of habit—ones who guard their purse strings and credit cards with a vengeance. Ones who make ticked-off Pit Bull Terriers seem like Care Bears. Well, they should, especially in today’s economy crunch.

I want an e-reader, but I also want a nice one, one that will last for several years. If I’m going to plunk down good money, then it better be worth the exorbitant price tag. I’m an editor and an author, so I spend too many hours in front of a pc monitor or with my laptop. The last thing I want to read an e-book on is my Palm Pilot with its 2-inch screen. By the time I finish one paragraph of an e-novel, my eyes are crossing and my head starts pounding. And for those of you who read e-books in this manner, I commend you; you obviously eat tons of carrots.

Other than people hollering about wanting a print book in their hands when they read, the other huge complaint I hear about e-books is the price of the gadgets used to read them. I have to concur with this complaint. I’ve been saving for one for quite some time now. I’m at the halfway point to buy one, but the other day a different model caught my eye. However, I nearly choked to death on my coffee when I noticed the price tag; one to the tune of $599.00.

Most of us work for a living and have two or more children to support. Many people are on fixed incomes. And those of us who do live above the average American income often have bills out the wazoo. The one thing I hear the most from readers who are also authors is this: I would love to own an e-reader, but I can’t afford one.

So where do manufacturers get off attaching price tags to electronics that would make a hooker flinch?

Well, I guess everything is expensive nowadays, but if the price of electronic readers would come down so that they’re affordable—and I’m talking the ones of quality that are worth slapping money down for—then the e-book industry would see a serious boom in profits. Going green is of the utmost importance, and many avid readers are running out of room for print editions anyway. I have books boxed in the upstairs cubbyhole because I don’t have room for them in my home; I ran out of shelf space a long time ago. Even my husband, who’s not much of a reader, says that in the next ten to fifteen years, a hardback will only be accessible in a library, e-books will be the only books, and the best-selling titles will be the only novels available as trade paperbacks.

Sure, there are those who will argue with this view, but I agree with my husband. He might not be a big reader, but he pays attention to advertisements in publishing, listens to what I have to say about my work, and watches the electronics industry. Changes are coming. Technology moves at lightning speed, and we’re oblivious to just how fast it moves until we’re faced with something new and unexpected.

Honey? Where’s the ON button on this thing?

Oh, for God’s sake. Click the big, glowing blue thing, would you?

So, how do you buy a quality e-reader if you have bills out the hoohaw, kids constantly in need of everything, or live on a fixed income?

A change jar.

A Christmas club.

A rainy day sock under the mattress.

Yeah, sounds too easy and stupid, doesn’t it? Well, it works. Every coin or greenback I find in the wash goes into my rainy day fund. When I empty my purse of change and dump out the contents in its bottom, all the coins go into that fund. If I find a stray dollar in my coat pocket, it goes in there too. When relatives ask what I want for my birthday, anniversary, or Christmas, I ask them to donate to whatever I’m saving up for. Many of my author/editor royalty checks go into that fund too.

The key, however, is not to spend that fund on anything else! No, don’t dip into it to buy Aunt DiDi a wedding present for her fifth marriage (besides, that dude’s wiggy looking and he picks his nose). No, don’t succumb to those nifty, sparkly 4-inch heels in the store window that you know you won’t wear (and don’t even look at the rhinestone bullwhip that comes with them!). And if you’re a guy, leave the heated camouflage tushy cushion for your tree stand at the sportsmen’s store. If your butt’s that cold, then stuff some of those newfangled heated rocks in your underwear (they’re much cheaper anyway).

And there’s always Tax Refund Season. Why not treat yourself to one nice thing such as that e-reader you’ve been salivating for?

I may have to go with my second choice soon (my eyes are tired), but determination and hiding my rainy day fund from my kids has worked wonders!

So what are my top choices?

#1 is the iRex Iliad. This puppy sells to the tune of $599.00 for the base book model; this is the one I mentioned earlier that had me choking. One thing that really convinces me on this model is that I can write on it; it comes with a stylus and a nice program to convert my stories, thoughts, ideas, etc.

#2 is the Astak reader. Note: it’s not available yet in all models. I’d like the larger version for this gal’s eyes, but the large-screened reader isn’t due to hit the market until February of 09. It has a ton of cool features such as MP3s, touch screen, and easy battery replacement. The price of this one starts at $300.00.

Then #3 is the Sony e-Reader. You can find this at the Sony site or, but if you go to you’ll find many mixed reviews. I’m not saying I wouldn’t accept one of these if it was given to me, and I may buy one if I can’t buy one of the above two models, but the consensus is that the first version is better than the latest model. And the price? You’re looking at $399.00 for this baby. However, if you go through a different retailer, you might be able to get it a few bucks cheaper, but don’t forget that the consumer always gets socked with a lovely shipping charge.

This brings me to the Kindle from I’ve heard many people talk about the Kindle. Those who have one like them for the most part. However, to me, it’s one of the ugliest gadgets I’ve ever seen. And the price isn’t that great either to the tune of $359.00, not to mention the long waiting list. However, I’ve been told that a fee is employed in order to access blogs and newspapers with a Kindle. I haven’t verified this, though.

If you’re a writer, imagine what would happen if quality e-readers were made affordable. Oh, the implications! The royalty checks! e-Publishers would smile from ear to ear!

But the price of quality? Ouch!

So, start saving! I have!

***If you'd like to sign up for RRP's newsletter go HERE


Cindy Jacks said...

Ahhh, we can but dream. Seriously though, the day is coming when the e-reader technology will become cheaper and more user friendly. And when it happens we'll all be ready with quality e-books to share :) Great blog topic, Faith!

Kelly Jamieson said...

Maybe these will be like all other electronic gadgets and computers - over time the price will come down. DVD players used to cost hundreds of dollars, now they'r, like, 19.99!!

Anne D said...

I found out today that Target has Sony readers at $30 off, down to $269.

Faith said...

You can order the Sony e-reader for about that much on too, Anne D, but that's still pricey, imho.

I guess I'll be saving for a while, lol.

Faith said...

Thank you, Cindy!

And Kelly, I dunno about the price coming down. Seems like these things have been on the market long enough now that they shouldn't be so expensive, but I'm still waiting!

Anthology Authors said...

On one of the lists I frequent, someone was talking about a problem he had with the new Sony. Someone else had the same problem. (sigh) I'm not big on the Kindle. It's proprietary and I think that hurts the epublishing market. Of course, Amazon doesn't care, but the rest of us do.


M.E Ellis said...

Hubby got a new phone last week. It looks like the iPhone, but it's an LG Viewty. It allows the reading of Word docs, so guess what phone I'm getting on my next upgrade when contract reneweal time comes around?



Jamie Hill said...

Good post, Faith. M.E., isn't the phone screen tiny? I have a Palm but I'm with Faith, after awhile my eyes hurt. I've always said the screen was the size of a Dorito.

I'm watching the newer ereaders, too. I'd love to invest in one, but which one? *sigh*

Watching and waiting,


Faith said...

As Dorito? HAHAHAHA!!!

Tess MacKall said...

I'm with Kelly, give this industry another couple of years and we'll have more choices and better bang for our buck!

I remember the first VCR I bought for $450.00. Five years later they were less than a hundred and then down to thirty, now non existent. lol

DVD players are disposable now. E readers will go the same path. It's the nature of the beast. The more popular they become, the more competitive price wise too.

I don't have one yet. I think I'll wait another year or so and keep reading from the comp till then. All the information is confusing at this point and I'd like to see it thoroughly vetted before I spend any money on something I truly don't understand.

Hell, my Jesse is going into Simulation and Game Development. She said last night that the future is in holograms. Wouldn't you just love to tap out a few keys on your comp and have the e book you just purchased pop out and look exactly like a book. Then the pages turn one by one as it hovers right there in front of you?

Now we're talking!

Faith said...

Heh, that would be super wild!

M.E Ellis said...

The screen is about 4 by 6 inches.


M.E Ellis said...

No it isn't. About 3 by 4 1/2.

UGH @ me.