Some interesting comparisons from a set of people with enough discretionary income to keep up with the gadget race, but who are still dismayed at the mean time to failure and cost of repair of single-purpose electric book readers. Philip Greenspun highlights his frustration at: Amazon Kindle bites the dust… $187 to fix
I may have to rethink my enthusiasm for the electronic book. Realistically the way that people handle books, the Kindle is not going to last more than one year. That means you’re spending $360 for the initial purchase and $187 every year for hardware repairs. Some of the Kindle editions of books are edging their way up towards $20 (see this Naipaul biography, for example). Suppose that you read one book every two weeks, or 25 books per year…
Kindle: $250 per year for hardware (spreading the cost of the initial Kindle purchase a bit) plus $312 for books at $12.50 per book = $562 per year. Good for individual travel and treadmill usage; bad for having to worry about forgetting it somewhere; bad for taking on vacation with family due to difficulty of sharing; terrible for illustrations and photos.
Paper: 25 books at $15 per book = $375 per year. Probably 50 percent of those books can be recycled into gifts, so the true cost is closer to $200 per year (assuming you need to buy gifts for friends and family periodically). Heavy for long trips; awkward for treadmill usage; good for carefree life (risk of forgetting in coffee shop limited to $15); great for sharing; great for illustrations and photos.
The commenters of course urge the use of libraries and online library reserves, but there's an interesting piece of the thread re using relatively advanced mobile phones as readers (iPhone, Android leading the pack). Philip points to this from Robin Bloor at Have Mac Will Blog: One Million Users: Is Stanza Killing The Kindle?
Does an ebook need a software application that runs on a device (like the iPhone) or does it need a purpose-built device (like the Kindle)?
Imho, the ebook is software and I have little doubt that I’m right about this. There will be some people who are prepared to buy a Kindle (or the Sony equivalent) in order to have a device that’s purpose-built for reading books. But if you can get equivalent functionality from an iPhone or iPod, then you’re not going to be happy to pay over $300 for the Kindle just for the privilege of buying ebooks. If ebooks were difficult to read on the iPhone/iPod then Stanza would already be dead in the water, but that’s not the case.
And, as you would expect, Stanza will not be confined to the iPhone. There’s already a Beta version for Google Android and one will likely be developed for RIM. There are also versions for the Mac and Windows (you may not want to read books on those platforms, but you’ll want to keep your library somewhere. For Lexcycle it makes sense to port it wherever there’s a platform that might be used for reading ebooks.
At various points in the history of consumer computing technology there's brief moments of "convergence" where everyone seems to be doing the same thing at least briefly before the tower of Babel hits again. The trend-spotter in me looks at this and thinks that mobile phones are getting more capable at least as fast as any dedicated purpose-built book reading machine, and that coming from the other end the small cheap "netbook" laptops will squeeze prices from the other end. To me that doesn't leave much room for a special purpose mobile book reader, but suggests that there may be multiple plausible general purpose phone-like or laptop-like things that will have a bunch of book-like things ready to read on them.