Thursday, October 07, 2010

Kindle the Sony e-reader? 

A year or so ago I bought my Sony e-reader.  It's unusual for me - though I love gadgets, I can rarely afford them.

I love it!  I've always loved books - the sight, the sound, the smell; but mostly, to be honest, the words.  I love to read.  The e-reader allows me to carry dozens - hundreds, if I want - of books around with me.  It remembers what page I'm on for all of them.  I can change the size of the print.  I can make notes.  It's great.

Lots of books - ancient and modern - are available to read on it.  Some of them are free - Project Guttenberg is making available as many books as copyright allows, as quickly as possible - and there are others.  All was going well until one friend - AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE - bought an Amazon Kindle.

Kindle is Amazon's own version of e-reader, and the two are, apparently and unfortunately, mutually incompatible.  You can't buy Kindle books and read them on the Sony, or vice-versa.  It does just about everything the e-reader does.  It's perhaps not quite as sophisticated - no touch-screen, for example; it's got a keyboard instead.  But hey - it downloads books, you don't need to be near a computer to do it (don't ask me - something to do with wi-fi or 3G or something).  And get this: there are more - lots more - books available for Kindle than for Sony.  And they're cheaper.

For instance: I like thrillers.  Lee Child's latest Jack Reacher thriller, 'Worth dying for' was published last week.  Amazon are selling it in hardcover for £7.59 (rrp £18.99) and the Kindle version - available immediately - they are selling for £6.64.  Cheaper.  Waterstones, on the other hand, are selling the hardback for £9.49 (dearer than Amazon - no surprise) and the e-book for (wait for it) £13.58. That's right - I said £13.58.  More than twice the price of Kindle.

Worse (and even for a Yorkshireman there are worse things than money.  Not many, but some.)  There are so many more books available for Kindle it's ridiculous.  (I've said that,haven't I?)  I'll leave you to do the relevant searches yourself.  But try some Christian authors - Packer, Don Carson and the like.  Have a look. 

So I wrote - politely - to Waterstones (note some of the prices have changed since - but not for the better):

You may not be the right department to raise this with, but I don't know who else to approach.
I bought a Sony e-book reader from my local Waterstones branch around a year ago.  It's brilliant in almost every way - but I'm beginning to think Kindle is better...
For example, today, Lee Child's new thriller 'Worth dying for' is released.  You have it in hardback for  £8.99 ; but you are selling it in its electronic format for £13.58.  Amazon's kindle version, though, is £6.64.  I know you'll say that 'the publishers set the prices' but, since the ending of the NBA, that's not really the case, as witnessed by the very fact that the hardback version's 'full price' is £18.99.
Even worse when comparing kindle and Sony ebook is the variety of books available.  Waterstones list 11 Dick Francis titles in electronic format; Amazon list 51 in kindle...  When we look for books other than the most popular thrillers, the situation is even worse.  Again, you may say it's the publishers who decide what formats are available and you're listing all those titles that are available.  But if the purchase power of Waterstones and WH Smith together cannot influence the publishers, we all need to move to kindle!  (Consider: with the almost £7 difference in price for the Lee Child book mentioned above, a mere 17 books would repay the investment.  I easily download 17 books in a six-month period.)
Please can you tell me: are there plans afoot to make a greater variety of ebooks available soon?  And will Waterstones price them more competitively?  Or should I order a Kindle?
Gary Benfold

Give them credit - they replied.  I didn't think they would.

Dear Gary,

Thank you for your email.

I am sorry to hear that you are unhappy with the price difference between ebooks and other formats online.

There are a number of reasons why the prices are different online but as this is an exclusive product prices may vary, I would like to inform you that in the future there will be reductions and promotions as the item becomes more popular.� We are doing all we can to lower the prices, but unfortunately we are unable to supply you with a time scale as to when this will be done.

I do apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

Kind regards,

Heather Jackson
Customer Service Team

Well, thanks Heather.  Thanks for taking the time.  But - well, it's not really an answer, is it?  I hope you don't mind me pointing that out.   'There are a number of reasons...'   I'm sure there are.  What are they?  'There will be reductions and promotions...'  Good.  But 'in the future'?  Next week?  Next year?  Next decade?  Why are you unable to supply me with a time-scale?  Is it because it's so long that I would go and buy a Kindle?  

And - why don't you address the question of the difference in number of books that are available?  Am I not right in thinking that - without actually saying it - you mean 'Yes, you'd be better off with a Kindle'?

So, dear reader, if you're thinking of an electronic reader - I'd go for a Kindle, myself.  In fact, I may get one myself, even if it means kindle-ing my Sony.


Jonathan Hunt said...

That's the plan. Birthday 2011. That's the plan.

Wayne said...

You could ebay your Sony and replace it with a Kindle, but the Sony/ePub format books that you have purchased would not work on the Kindle (different format).

The new Kindle does look nice, and is much, much cheaper than its predecessor. I put that down to the launch of the iPad which is eating into the sales of all ebook readers. The iPad has the advantage of allowing users to download the Kindle app which turns it into a Kindle. There is also the Apple iBook reader plus a number of others so you could use pretty much any ebook format. It's a bit expensive though.

charles said...

You might be interested to know Gary, that I have a Kindle app on my HTC Desire phone. If you are thinking of upgrading your phone it might be worth looking into. Get back to me if you want to know more about it.

Gary Benfold said...

Yes, Charles - more details please about your HTC Desire phone - direct to me, if you prefer?

Tim said...

Hi Gary,

I have just been enjoying reading my Kindle and sharing what I have read on Twitter and Facebook. I'm glad I didn't rush into buying the Sony. Your friend WHO KNOWS WHO HE IS!

Gary Benfold said...

Yes, Tim - but watch this space. There have been developments!