Payday tomorrow and I'm contemplating the next two major purchases to be made here in Caxland: a henhouse and an ebook reader. The irony is that I've spent a lifetime reading and never looked after a hen in my life, yet choosing the right accommodation for the soon-to-arrive chickens is proving significantly easier than selecting an ebook device. And I'm talking orders of magnitude here. When it comes to housing poultry I know I need maximum ease, minimum maintenance, easy to clean and as foxproof as possible. That the eglu from Omlet looks funky and maintains its value with virtually zero depreciation are a fantastic bonus (the rare occasions on which one appears second hand on eBay it fetches only a few pounds less than a brand new model). Yes it's going to be expensive, but do I care? Only a bit. I've wanted hens for years, and despite a peripatetic lifestyle the eglu and kind neighbours willing to trade shutting-up duty for fresh eggs are finally going to make it happen.
Compare the ease of this purchase then with my dilemma over what hardware or device I select to read ebooks with. I know more about books than I'll ever know about chickens. And yet I really have no idea what to go with: Sony E-book Reader; iLiad; Cybooks Gen 3 ebook; Kindle 2; Kindle on iphone... You may be wondering why if I like printed books so much I even want to do this (cf. yesterday's post). The answer is multi-textured and certainly not because I've wanted an ebook reader for years. Sure I've owned various PDAs and electronic notebooks, but none of them has ever become an indispensible tool or the only repository of my contacts list. And each time I bought a new electronic organiser I thought this was the device that would finally house diary, contacts, to do list and latterly Internet access - making everything finally cohere into one easy package. But here I am years later, with a mobile phone, laptop, access to a massive database at work and a dongle for online access on the move. Oh yes - and a decaying filofax. A niggling voice tells me that whatever ebook option I choose it might end up just as much of a let down as the last generation of devices.
Why an ebook reader and why now, then? Well because Web 2.0 and beyond, that's why. I live and work in a world of information, ideas, books and speed. Much as I love print books - and let's face it my daily working life revolves around enabling publishers to get them out of a warehouse and into customers' hands - I don't always want to wait. If one of my colleagues or friends emails or blogs about a writer, or if I read a review or hear a speaker talking about a book, particularly a non-fiction book, I'd like to read and discuss it now - not next week. So although I can't imagine ever not buying any print books, there are some texts for which I'd happily trade bound paper for speed. For an English Literature & Drama graduate I purchase a terrifying number of business books - and guess what - they're not the ones in pride of place on my sitting room shelves.
I search online for clues about which bit of kit to select and my heart sinks. OK, I admit, I held and had a play with a Kindle 2 at the IPG Conference and was temporarily seduced. But why would I want to carry one with me everywhere when it can't do anything other than host books. Why can't I blog from it, tweet from it, make calls from it, order my groceries from it, check in with the children on it, and maybe if I rig up a webcam, look out for Mr Fox to boot? If I do go for Kindle, it'll be on iphone, no matter how sexy the Kinde 2 looks and feels. But then there's not even a Kindle 2 page on the .co.uk website yet, and luddite that I am I can't work out if I can download Kindle for iphone from the .com website to a UK phone. Moreover if I can, do I really want to only be able to buy US editions from the .com site?
There are alternatives of course. I know that as at 21 August last year Gail Rebuck thought her Sony ebook Reader the bees knees. But she's not in my Filofax on my Linked In network, so how do I know if she still thinks so? For all I know it might already be discarded in the back of a storage box along with a jumble of chargers, dead mobile phones, ethernet cables and other detritus of modern life. And above all the Sony seems to me to have many of the same downsides as Kindle 2.
So, dear Reader, if you're using an ebook reader - your opinions and advice will be most welcome.
In the meantime one thing's certain. There'll be chickens in the garden and omlette for breakfast long before I've made my reader choice. Here in Caxland eggs seem a whole lot easier to crack than ebooks. And I'll bet that whatever device I do choose I won't be able to sell it a year later on eBay for as much as it cost me.