Tech guy David Pogue recently did a video review of a new eBook reader called the Cool-er. Before watching the video, I had high hopes for it; Pogue mentions that the Cool-er is cheaper than an Amazon Kindle and implies that the Cool-er's eBooks don't have ridiculous copy protection. In the end, though, Pogue pans the device; he digs the idea of the Cool-er, but he complains that the device is just too damn unintuitive - for instance, he learns that it takes something like sixteen button pushes to change the size of the font in books.
Pogue also complains that the device itself feels as if it were cheaply fabricated in some Asian country; as a matter of fact, that's exactly how the Cool-er was made. Which brings me to something I've learned about electronics: if generic Asian companies are trying their hand at a gadget, you know that that gadget has hit the big time.
So like it or not, I think that eBook readers are starting to become a big deal; perhaps they aren't taking off in the same way that the iPod did (and perhaps they'll never quite reach that level of popularity; after all, reading is on the decline in the United States), but they're certainly filling a certain niche. And I've gotta say: I wouldn't mind having something like a Kindle. Here's my problems with eBooks, though - and I'm certain I've talked about this before.
Offender one: copy protection. Basically, there's no point to copy protection beyond inconveniencing good consumers; after all, copy protection has proven to do nothing to stop piracy. The idea of spending money on a book that I can't lend to my friends or read on other (hypothetical) devices bothers me. And offender two: a lack of physicality. I like having real books. They look nice. My dream house has at least one wall of books, if not a secret passageway.
I think these problems can be rectified, though. Offender one is easy: don't put copy protection on eBooks. Simple enough. But problem two is a bit trickier.
Here's my idea: let's say you go to Barnes and Noble and buy a book. Somewhere on the inside of that book, there's a code you can use to register said book online. Once you do that, you can download a free eBook copy of hardcover book that you just purchased. It would be kind of like buying a CD, copying it to your computer, and putting it on your iPod.
Of course, it'd be possible to purchase purely digital eBooks without investing in the remains of a dead tree if one so wishes; however, I think physical books will always have their niche, not unlike vinyl records.