Is wireless really even necessary in an ebook reader?

Is wireless really even necessary in an ebook reader?

Summary: The has been a lot of ebook news this week with the new Daily Edition Reader added to the latest Sony Reader trio, the launch of the Sony eBook Store on the Mac, and the roll out of over a million free public domain books in EPUB format from Google. It is nice to see Sony go head-to-head with the Kindle devices in terms of wireless capability, but I actually just ordered a new Sony Reader Touch Edition for $299 instead of waiting for the Sony Reader Daily Edition and now wonder if the wireless capability is really a necessity for ebook readers.

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The has been a lot of ebook news this week with the new Daily Edition Reader added to the latest Sony Reader trio, the launch of the Sony eBook Store on the Mac, and the roll out of over a million free public domain books in EPUB format from Google. It is nice to see Sony go head-to-head with the Kindle devices in terms of wireless capability, but I actually just ordered a new Sony Reader Touch Edition for $299 instead of waiting for the Sony Reader Daily Edition and now wonder if the wireless capability is really a necessity for ebook readers.

There are a select few ebook readers with wireless capabilities, but the Kindle definitely leads in this area. Looking back at the last year or so when I have owned and used the Kindle 1 and Kindle 2, I honestly spent just a few hours total being connected and only found it essential to get content onto my device because there wasn't a super easy way to do so via cable. I rarely ever used the web browser because it wasn't a pleasant experience and I think wireless connectivity isn't as important as so many people make it out to be.

The cons of wireless connectivity include reduced battery life, tendency to buy more than you really need or can even read, and frustrations with weak connections. The pro is that you can get content to your device quickly and easily without a PC. I use my ebook readers to read books and have something like 30+ pieces of material on both my Kindle 2 and Sony Reader 505 and it would take a long time on a desert island alone for me to get through even just the titles I already have loaded up. I don't see the urgency or need to be so connected to the network for ebooks and actually think as the economy struggles people are looking for way to be a bit more frugal. Spur of the moment purchases on the Kindle don't help foster responsible spending habits.

The Sony Reader, and other readers like the EZ Readers, are more open to different content types and thus you have access to thousands of free ebooks that will take you years to get through. You can also find thousands of free books for the Kindle, but there are more for these other devices and the content is easier to get to the reader because of the more open nature of them.

I like to treat my ebook reader like a book and that means being free of distractions with a display that most closely matches a book. The Kindle 1 display was good, but the Sony Reader 505 sets the bar for devices I have tried out and the Kindle 2 actually has lighter, thinner fonts and is not as easy to read as the Sony 505. I worry that the touch screen on the new Sony Reader takes away some clarity and if that is the case I may not have my new reader too long, unless other features can overcome clarity issues.

Another benefit to using a PC (and now a Mac for the Sony Readers) is that you can have a local copy of your book content that you can backup to a DVD for storage and a distributor would have to physically come into your house to get that content back. It really is not a big deal to spend 5-10 minutes loading up an ebook reader with hours and hours of books once a month and in my experiences it will save you money by letting you think a bit more before making rash purchases.

Do you think wireless capability is essential in an ebook reader?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Networking, Wi-Fi

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16 comments
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  • Yes and No

    It obviously isn't necessary in an e-"book" reader, but Kindle and now Sony are trying to make these devices much more than just for reading books. Daily periodicals need the wireless much more than books. Too bad there isn't much market for them right now.
    ncted
  • I just want WiFi.

    I could get books at home without turning on my PC with WiFi. 3G costs too much.
    T1Oracle
  • For eBook Sellers, it's brilliant

    From a consumer standpoint, I don't think that a reader
    needs wireless. As you note, the main reason is to get
    existing content on your device without an easy to use
    cable. But from the standpoint of the seller, it is
    absolutely essential.

    What you list as a con for you, loading up on material that
    you will never read, is actually a boon for them. It means
    that they are moving more titles. Booksellers don't really
    care if people read books, only that they continue to buy
    books. (With the assumption being that if you buy it,
    eventually you will read it and might even recommend it.)

    This is why electronic devices are such a godsend. They
    encourage people to buy far more books than they could
    ever actually read. It's like Apple's app store, book buying
    becomes an impulse behavior.

    And the amount of money gained by this change greatly
    offsets the cost of adding 3g cell tech to the device. Thus,
    while it may not be necessary for consumers, it's a brilliant
    move on the part of the manufacturers.

    (And since when are well designed and integrated features
    a bad thing? The mentality that all computing devices
    should only include the *bare essential* to accomplish the
    task really is a disease.)
    Rob Oakes
    • Exactly

      "(And since when are well designed and integrated features
      a bad thing? The mentality that all computing devices
      should only include the *bare essential* to accomplish the
      task really is a disease.)"

      LOL good point. You're exactly right, make the purchases as easy and painless as possible. Access from wireless becomes instant, your wares are brought to the consumer, they don't have to hunt for it. Look at Amazon's store, see a book you like, anywhere you happen to be surfing the web, and don't have your Kindle with you? No problem, just one click purchase and it'll be waiting on your Kindle at home. Instant purchase gratification even if your Kindle is turned off at home. Likewise they have a "try it" feature to get book samples.

      P.S. This is why I'll be very surprised if any non-wireless ereaders do half as well as the Kindle. Yeah, Sony may sell a bunch, but with all the steps added to actually get that book to the ereader, from deciding you WANT a book to accessing the home PC to buying the book to transferring the book. They won't sell a LOT of ebooks.
      oncall
      • You can't buy it on the device using WiFi?

        That's just dumb. Unlike 3G, WiFi is *free* wireless.
        T1Oracle
  • But it would have its uses

    During last years Frankfurt Book Fair I had a short conversation with Robert Nell from Sony after the IDPF (EPUB) seminar. In our conversation I mentioned how I didn't feel wireless connectivity to be so important - Robert didn't seem very impressed with this opinion.

    The one plus point of wireless connectivity though would be the ability to receive daily newspaper subscriptions direct to the reader, which would certainly be more convenient that having to connect to the computer everyday.
    epubBooks
  • RE: Is wireless really even necessary in an ebook reader?

    I can envision the delivery of subscriptions of e-material of what used to be physical media like newspapers or magazines. Instead of opening the door to retrieve the newspaper that was left on your doorstep, you just tap the screen of your e-reader to open up the news that was delivered 'wirelessly' to your machine. Hmmm, do you think I could get a patent on that idea?
    hgh9mrp@...
  • Not a "necessity"

    No it isn't to be sure. It is a significant convenience, one that makes it a more provocative purchase, the store is "in your ebook reader". But, you also have to take into account your target audience which includes the younger "techies", who don't need wireless and who think nothing of the steps needed to get the file into an ebook reader, and the millions of adults out there (many of them older) that are shockingly computer illiterate. A lot of folks out there have a computer to surf the web and check email and that's all they know about working a computer.

    Don't be too quite to dismiss any features of the Kindle as irrelevant. Ebook readers were stagnating before the Kindle. Whether it's the wireless, or Amazon's store, or the ebook form itself, or a combination of all these factors that got things moving remains to be worked out by the market. My vote is it may the THE most important factor that got many folks, who would have blown off ereaders before, to try it.
    oncall
  • I see no need for wireless.

    I'd like to hook the eBook reader to a computer using a USB port and have a memory storage inside it.
    Grayson Peddie
  • Not for me...

    or my wife, or my sis, or my nephew. And nobody complains for the absence of wi-fi. I usually load tons of books and then read them for several month. I have enough time during those month to decide what do I want to read next. ;-)

    We all have Sony PRS-505 (I bought three: for my wife, my sis and my nephew and my kids made me a great birthday present).
    Solid Water
  • My Question is . . .

    How many people even subscribe to an on-line paper, anyway? It may different on the left or east coasts, but getting your news via a newspaper, or even magazine (even if in e-format) is old hat.

    Most papers are slowly dying, and what mags are left usually either aren't worth reading, or you can get better info on the web . . .

    The end result either way, is that that is the only true reason for wireless support I can even think of. And you can usually get that stuff more comfortably on a PC (Laptop or Netbook) anyway.
    JLHenry
  • RE: Is wireless really even necessary in an ebook reader?

    I see no need for a dedicated ebook reader, I think a laptop is just fine for reading books... It would be nice to have a full tablet PC in that form factor though.
    condelirios
  • RE: Is wireless really even necessary in an ebook reader?

    I think the only use for a wireless connection on a ebook reader is for newspapers, magazines and blogs! I have 297 books on my Sony 505 right now, don't know when I will ever have time to read all of them, but since most of them were FREE, from websites other than Sony's! I am not worried about it!
    leopards
  • RE: Is wireless really even necessary in an ebook reader?

    Wireless is necessary for the future of books; dedicated ebook readers are not.

    Back in 2007 a French publisher, Editis, put together a video of their idea of how an ebook of the future would work. The video was posted on YouTube by "lanceplot" (search for "Possible ou Probable") and that vision is entirely possible today.

    I have been in publishing for four decades. The concept Editis suggests is the most exciting ebook idea I have seen since Kay's "DynaBook" way back when, and I want one!

    So long as manufacturers produce $300 and $400 dedicated readers, locked in to limited formats and with little functionality, they are a niche product.
    Old Publisher
  • RE: Is wireless really even necessary in an ebook reader?

    I don't think you understand. You can take only your kindle with you on vacation now and forget about your laptop and maybe even your phone. Your information AND communication needs are covered.
    geneven
  • RE: Is wireless really even necessary in an ebook reader?

    I have been reading ebooks for around 8 yrs now and not once did I ever find a need for wireless. I have used laptops, palm devices and a Ebookwise device (you can still get one for $150) as well as the Sony 505. I will not pay extra for it nor will I use it! These things should run around $50 - $100 seeing as how they promote book sales. I am tired of being gouged to death by proprietary devices. What say you fellow consumer?
    photomstr@...