Saturday, January 14, 2006

commute with rothbard

If your daily situation resembles my own, hefting the Man, Economy & State, Power and Markets tome to read during your work/home commute is not a viable option. Well, that was until now.

At this past CES show, Sony has just announced their next generation ebook reader, called simply enough, the "Sony Reader". While this is their second attempt at selling an ebook reader, this time around they are utilizing a technology known as e-ink, which finally delivers a reading experience with the legibility of paper, something that current LCD technology cannot match.

What I like about this, is that for me, it opens up a new paradigm of "commutable" reading materials, namely those backbreakers which you would have never have dreamed of shlepping along previously.

Sony will be selling ebooks through the Sony Connect store, the Sony answer to Apple's iTunes Music Store. The only downside I can see here is that the price of an ebook will not be significantly cheaper than the Gutenberg edition. The aspiring economist within me questions which consumer would be willing to equate the objective use-value of a good which has very little cost to duplicate and transport (an ebook) to that of the physical product, which is still a higher-order good in the warehouse, transformed into a consumer good only after it has been transported into consumers hands. Thus I cannot understand how Sony can equate the price of an ebook in Kansas to that of a physical book in New York, for anyone familiar with Rothbard's example of production costs of wheat (page 622 in MES.)

To counter that though, it supports other ebook formats such as PDF, HTML, or even just 'plaintext', so if you have the know-how to obtain ebooks illicitly, you won't be lacking in inexpensive ebooks. In any case, organizations such as the Mises Insitute have a vast library of free ebooks, including those such as LvM's Human Action, and MNR's Man Economy & State.

The H x W dimensions are similar to those of a paperback book, while only .5 inches thick and the battery life will give you about 7,500 page turns, enough to satisfy even the most serious reader. My only other qualm with this device is the lack of internal backlighting, quashing dreams of the ideal bedside reading experience.


bkmarcus said...

Well, backlighting would kill the battery life. I was briefly involved in the ebook industry before the bubble popped half a decade ago, and they were just starting to talk about this technology back then: tiny black and white balls that are pulled into position on the "page" and require almost no charge to stay put and very little charge to change positions. How wonderful to see it come to pass. Now how much is one of these things going to cost? And do we buy at version 1.0 or wait for the spiffy "Sony Reader Plus"?

iceberg said...

By backlighting I meant either a user adjustable or light-sensing switch. One LED could illuminate the entire display plane sufficiently I believe, which is what they are probably saving for rev 2.

I believe the pricing will be in the $300-$400 range.

Would you personally justify spending that much on the device and the ebooks you purchase, all to gain the convenience of having a library at your fingertips, and possibly the benefit of not having a book-cluttered home?

Call me an old-fashioned, hard-money crank, but the only way I can see myself purchasing an ebook is either as an inexpensive download (50¢-$2 range), or possibly paying a premium for a physical book, and have it come with a unique key to claim an ebook download.