E-reading, Sharing, Conversing

The e-readers keep getting more competitive, and we’re getting more of them. And little by little, they’re growing moresophisticated, more in tune with rapid changes in how we access all sorts of information. And for a writer who wants to create and market his book online, the strength of e-readers is a great thing. And more and more, they tap into more than books.

Amazon is practically giving away some of the hottest titles around for those have a Kindle. And a $79 annual Amazon Prime membership.

This is a real inducement not only to spring for a Kindle (which can be had for as little as $79), but for Amazon Prime, which allows for “free” shipping, and other benefits. If you use Amazon frequently, the Prime option is a good deal, considering what you save on mailing fees. You can also get free or reduced-price television and movie downloads and, now, titles that range from the Hunger Games trilogy to Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. These are former or current bestsellers – not the public-domain titles that you can download anywhere, titles such as Pride and prejudice and Moby-Dick. You can get Water for Elephants or Fast Food Nation or another 90 or so other notable books free (though not all at once).

Barnes & Noble’s Nook already offers the ability to borrow books from public libraries. Many people have opted for the Nook because of that function. If you’re already in a community with a good library (that your taxes support), why not go with a Nook and save money?

Barnes & Noble sees a continuing future in Nook, despite the brutal battleground at the brick-and-mortar bookstore level. Barnes & Noble will double the size of its Nook boutiques to 2,000 square feet at its busiest locations, in time for the holiday season.

But the real news is the continuing growth of social networking, of conversation, in certain e-readers.

Buried beside the Amazon announcement and the news of Barnes & Noble’s continuing Nook strength is a new edition of the Kobo Vox e-Reader for about $200 (Kobo offers other readers at $129 and $99). This new version has a color display, and like the Kindle Fire, you can read newspapers, magazines as well as browse the internet, access email, listen to music, watch movies, play games. You can also access over 15,000 free apps

The Nook Friends feature already lets people allow their Twitter and Facebook friends see what they’re reading, and also allow friends to read a book for a limited period.  Of course, on the iPad, you can also simply email your friends about what you’re reading on the Nook or Kindle or iBooks app without any problem.

But it’s likely that e-readers will add more tablet features and try to create a growing interactive experience for the solitary reading one. I myself rather prefer the solitary reading experience – you can really only share a book if you’re reading it aloud to someone.

I read in all different ways. But recently I’ve been walking around town and taking public transportation while listening to an excellent audio book version of Anthony Trollope’s great novel, Can You Forgive Her? Audio book sales are still quite strong, and even growing, but it wasn’t too long ago they seemed the latest thing. Who’d have thought that listening on an iPod to a well-narrated classic would suddenly seem so old-fashioned?

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