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On e-Reader Tech News we track down the latest e-Reader news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great e-reader tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest devices and accessories.

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Kindle vs Paper Round 2: The Flipback?

As we all know by now, the Kindle was a ploy by Amazon to undermine the publishing industry, authors, and the generally transcendent experience of reading in general.  It has long been known that reading a book on a piece of electronics will always be sub-par compared to holding an actual paper book in your hand for countless reasons not worth looking too closely at anyway, but the Kindle marketing machine is too strong.  Readers have all but given up on paper, books are being burned, libraries are being shut down after falling into disuse, and machines may forever rule our lives.  There is one hope remaining, however: The Flipback!  Finally, a paper book that can compete with the Kindle in every way that matters.

Ok, that was all a bit ridiculous even for me, but I hope you see what I’m getting at.  Recent press surrounding a series of hardcover, cloth-bound, bible-paged books called Flipbacks has made it sound like they’re the latest great hope for paper to make a comeback in the book world.  I’ll admit that they are somewhat interesting.  Basically, small hardcover books about the size of a bulky cell phone that are meant to be read vertically and one-handed, with pages being flipped upward rather than from right to left.  The Flipback is lightweight, highly portable, and probably just as great for travel and commuting as the company making it is advertising.  Of course, you’re still going to be paying $19.99 for a single book printed in super-small text on the kind of super thin pages rarely seen outside of a bible.

Even assuming that there were no real downside to this product — no text size issues, no quality concerns, and priced to move — where is there a good reason for comparison to the Kindle or any other eReader?  Speaking on a personal level, I would say that this is almost worse for me than a normal paperback.  The price is higher, the books themselves are less aesthetically pleasing than your average equally priced hardcover, and I really dislike the “onion skin” paper they are using.  These seem to be a possible solution to a problem that already disappeared with the coming of the eReader.

To be a bit more objective than that, I think these Flipbacks have a chance if they can get the price down.  Right now you can buy yourself a Kindle for the price of 6 Flipbooks.  No matter how portable you can claim them to be, that just isn’t good enough even if they were competing with nothing but regular old-fashioned mass market paperbacks.  Many people are likely to find that the paper book “experience” is as foreign with one of these new books as is the Kindle itself, again downplaying the potential for direct competition.  There is a fair amount to get used to.

I think, however, that this could take off as a commuter’s impulse buy type of item in the next few years if they can get costs down enough to undercut the average paperbacks.  Right now, it is still essentially a test run of 11 titles coming from a single printing house.  Is there potential for a reading revolution?  Maybe a small one, sure!  Do we need to jump back up on the “Kindles are killing books” bandwagon again because paper has suddenly rendered eReaders obsolete?  Probably not.

Kindle DRM Debate Magically Reignited By Harry Potter

With the announcement that the Harry Potter series will be offered in eBook for the first time through the author’s very own distribution system (via Kindle, Nook, and pretty much any other device you care to name) rather than through the normal channels or in partnership with any publishing company, J.K Rowling has almost certainly upset some people.  More importantly, however, her decision to release the incredibly popular series free of DRM constraints, relying instead on digital watermarking that will identify the original purchaser should a copy be found being distributed, brings the question of Digital Rights Management back to the front of our minds.

The philosophy behind this move will make sense to many people.  If you buy an eBook, why should it matter what device you decide to read it on?  If you own both a Kindle and a Nook, shouldn’t it be possible to move between them as desired?  Publishing companies, as well as eBook distributors like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, have traditionally felt that to be wishful thinking.  After all, if you can read the eBook on whatever you want, what is to stop you from giving a copy to your friends and family, or even throwing it onto the internet where anybody who wants to read it can get to it for free?  They see the restrictions as worth the price if it means that authors and publishers will continue to get their cut for each reader who comes along.

I look at this release as an experiment.  We will get a chance to see how an author fares when she takes an already established and well known collection of books and releases them digitally with very little control.  Will Harry Potter fans show up in huge numbers to buy the series yet again just so that they can read it on their Kindles?  Is it too late to catch the attention of most now that the series has already sold so well?  Perhaps the majority will even feel entitled to pirate the series, having already spent as much as $150+ on a complete set of the hardcovers.  This last point, in particular, holds certain weight for me since it gets to the heart of the DRM issue at hand.

If you buy for one medium, be it paper or Kindle, are you paying for the specific instance of that product, or are you paying for access to the information it contains.  If the former, then the DRM scheme we have now should be fine.  If anything, it is fairly lenient.  You would be paying for the opportunity to read a book on one specific platform and anything else is extra.  If, on the other hand, we are buying the information contained in the instance, then it makes sense to be able to access it via any device we have on hand.  Maybe paper books make more sense as collectables in a system like that?

Regardless of what the truth is, or how the public will choose to interpret it given this opportunity, Rowling is going to make loads of money.  Kindle owners are going to show up for this one.  The difference between tens and hundreds of millions of dollars could be how we have to judge the outcome of this experiment in the end.  It could easily become a point in favor of the abolishment of restrictive DRM, if people are honest.