Waterstone’s (the UK’s leading bookstore chain) have been making a lot of fuss about the release of the Sony Reader thingy, and their new eBooks online store. Now the hardware does sound rather nice – it uses a fancy eInk display that is sufficiently sharp and contrasty to compare with reading actual printed pages, and which only uses power to change what’s displayed. This leads to a quite impressive battery life. It has enough built in memory to hold 160 books (depending on how long they are, of course), and has memory card slots for effectively infinite expansion.
Very nice. And the price of £199, while not actually cheap, is in the range where I could very easily be tempted. But until today’s launch, there was a distinct lack of information about the really important bit: content. Waterstone’s are selling the kit because they want to sell lots of eBooks through their website, and they’ve made a lot of fuss about having lots of titles. Of course, they didn’t mention the little matter of how much they’ll be charging…
Well, today it all became clear: they’re charging too much. Way too much. Now if I’m getting a DRM-protected digital file that I can’t sell, lend or give away like I could with an actual physical book, I’d expect to pay less for it than the printed version. And at first sight, there are some discounts on offer. But not very big ones. The prices are compared with what would seem to be the cover prices of the printed versions. The problem is that Waterstone’s discounted price for an eBook is higher than Amazon’s price for the printed one. And as I don’t pay extra for delivery from Amazon, the eBooks are looking like a really bad deal. And for current paperbacks, they look like poor value compared to Waterstone’s own 3 for 2 offers.
It’s a shame, really – this is a technology I’d happily go for if the price was right. Having recently had to pack up all my books into boxes, I’m very much aware of how much space the things take up. And I’d love to be able to take lots of reading material with me on trips without having to carry a stack of full-sized books.
Still, don’t let me prejudice you. Have a look for yourself:
 And who pays those?
 In January, I paid £50 for a year’s worth of “free” next day delivery. I think I’d got my money’s worth by April
 And how heavy they are