Digital World: Feed your e-reader – part 1

More people these days are in the market not for books, but for e-book readers, which enable them to avoid the effort of going to a bookstore and picking out interesting titles.

311_Kindle (photo credit: Amazon via Bloomberg)
(photo credit: Amazon via Bloomberg)
Summer is a great time for a good read, but all of the sudden, “reading” has gotten very complicated. More people these days are in the market not for books, but for e-book readers, which allow them to dispense with the effort of going down to the bookstore and ferreting out interesting titles. Now, the books come to you. (It wouldn’t hurt all of us to get a little exercise and do our book shopping in person, but I suppose that’s the way of the world.)
And in my capacity as a tech “know-it-all,” it’s my responsibility to guide you through the jungle of e-book use. What device should you buy? Which makes the most sense for residents of Israel? Which is the best buy, and can I buy it at Best Buy when I travel to the US?
So many questions, so little space. What good is an ebook reader without content to read? Until recently, content was a problem, which led me to suggest the iPad as the most practical e-reader for Israelis (albeit the most expensive). Only the iPad’s iBook library gave you the ability to download content directly to your device, as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook (the two major players in the e-reader market) did not allow you to access content from their bookstores in Israel.
Apple doesn’t let you use an Israeli credit card at its bookstore either, but you can buy gift cards for the iTunes store and use that credit to buy content for your iPhone or iPad, including at the iBook store (you can even buy the cards online here in Israel at
That was then. But a new development at Amazon threatens to change the value-for-money balance significantly in their favor. You can now download content from Amazon directly to your PC or your Kindle right here in Israel using your Israeli credit card. No more blocked content because your IP address is in the “wrong neighborhood,” and no more nudging your friends who had American credit cards to download content for you.
Unfortunately, the Kindle itself is not (yet) available in Israel. But now that the content is available, it would seem to be just a matter of time until the device is sold here, as it is in some 100 countries (the holdup may be in Amazon’s trying to make a deal with a cellphone service provider for a 3G connection).
On the other hand, the Kindle isn’t readily available anywhere as of this writing, because Amazon was inundated with orders after cutting the price of some of the devices. (The iPad is hard to get, as well.) IPads are not yet being officially sold in Israel either, but that is likely to change at some point in the future, as well. For now, users who want a device but don’t want to go to the US (or send someone there) to buy one can use a service such as to order either device and have it hand-delivered to their address in Israel.
The Nook’s content is only available in North America right now, as is the device itself, and B&N has no immediate plans to begin distributing worldwide, as Apple and Amazon have been doing for awhile.
Now that book content is no longer a problem for either device, the question of which one to buy – iPad or Kindle – depends on whether you want to use your device just for reading books, in which case you’d get a Kindle. If you want a device that can do other things as well, such as video, Web searching, presentations, and much more, you’d go with an iPad. Like they say in the commercials, “There’s an app for that” – whatever it is, and that’s a claim only the iPad can make at this point.
Note that you can also download a Kindle app for the iPad, allowing you to access the Amazon bookstore and download e-versions of the half million or so books available there. The app, which is free, turns the iPad into a virtual Kindle. There is also a Kindle app for iPhone, Android and even BlackBerry devices.
Don’t count Kindle out of the app game yet either.
Amazon offers developers a kit they can use to develop apps for the Kindle. While it will probably take Amazon a while (a long while) to build an app store that iPad and iPhone users would be willing to take seriously, the Kindle’s sub-$200 price (compared to more than double for the cheapest iPad) will definitely sway some customers in these recessionary times.
We’re talking here about content, and content really does dictate buying choices for e-book readers. Maybe you’re more adventurous and are willing to spend money on a non-Apple or non-Amazon product, or maybe someone gave you an eGriver Touch ( as a gift. Can you get content for it? Where would you download books compatible with your off-the-beaten-path device? As it turns out, there are plenty of other e-readers on the market, and some of them may be better deals (i.e., have better features) than any of the “big three.” But the big three are just that for a good reason: they have the content.
If only there were a way to convert e-book content between formats, enabling Nook users to buy Amazon e-books, or iPad users to get deals meant for Nook users. That would be a great hi-tech miracle, wouldn’t it? Well, miracles sometimes do happen, as we will find out in part 2 of the e-book content story.