Sunday, 12 April 2009

Of eggs & ebooks II

Easter Sunday seems an appropriate moment for an eggs & ebooks update.

The two most interesting purchases made here in Caxland since my last post have been a book and a purple eglu. Note I said a book, not an ebook. Ian Bremmer and Preston Keats' The Fat Tail, purchased at Bremmer's excellent RSA Thursday talk, to be precise. I observed that Blackwells who run booksales at the RSA gave no information about ebook purchasing options, and as Bremmer was signing my copy it crossed my mind that an ebook reader is going to fall down badly when it comes to feeding my signed hardback first edition habit.

(As an aside, anyone interested in an insight into the interplay of global recession with political pressures and the implications for business risk and investment, follow the link to the RSA's video. Once you get past the Woody Allen body language, Bremmer's presentation is a fascinating and accessible precis of the political and economic forces shaping the world we live and work in.)

So, no ebook reader as yet. The key problem here is that despite reservations about the dominance of amazon, I find myself veering inexorably towards Kindle 2, heavily influenced by the American commentators I'm following via blogs, Twitter and elsewhere. Everyone seems passionate about their Kindles. It is maddening that my colleagues over on the other side of the Altantic have access to Kindle while over here I don't. With no UK launch date yet announced, I've thought seriously about buying one in America. But I can't find any reassurance that I'd receive much support for it as UK-based user. Wireless certainly wouldn't work, and I'd only be able to purchase US editions from my laptop and then load onto my device via USB. But from what I understand this only works if I have a US billing address for my credit card, which I don't. What with all those barriers in place it somehow it seems like I'd be carrying around a stateless refugee with no rights in the world of global e-content. Similarly I can't find information available about Kindle for iphone anywhere outside the US.

In fact a bit of me is beginning to wonder whether amazon deserves the level of interest I am displaying in their product and the energy I am putting into finding out about it. The website is scoring numerous marketing own goals in this regard. When I search Kindle 2 on the site, I find myself able to purchase accessories for my as-yet-hypothetical-Kindle (USB cables, leather covers and books about using and finding content). I'm also guided to other ebook devices, such as the Sony ebook Reader. Worse still if I go to the books section and search just Kindle, I find a list of books with Kindle in the title. Not a whisper (let alone a whispersync) of when UK customers are going to be able to buy into amazon's ebook reading device. I would have thought that if ever there was a company that understood the international market for goods and services and the fact that different availability in different territories just leads to frustration, it would be amazon. Yet when here in England decide I want to buy a Kindle 2 and look for information, I find myself directed to:

1. To Kindle the Starling (Aquila new poetry) by Michael Edwards (Paperback - 7 Feb 1973)
2 Used & new from £47.13

The Complete User's Guide to the Amazing Amazon Kindle by Stephen Windwalker (Paperback - 29 Aug 2008)
8 Used & new from £19.35

Puttin' on My Big Girl Panties by Michelle Kindle-Clyburn (Paperback - 16 Jul 2007)
Buy new: £13.49
13 Used & new from £9.18

(I kid you not.)

It seems very old world to have no indication of when Kindle will be available in the UK, when in America there's so much talk of how great Kindle is. In fact I'm beginning to understand how very frustrated blind and visually impaired people feel when they have to wait months for large-print, audio and braille editions of books the rest of us have had access to and been chattering about for months.

In the meantime, no chickens in the garden yet, but the purple eglu has arrived safely, in a piece of exemplary customer services from the people at Omlet. It was ordered online, arrived first thing on the selected delivery date with a note reminding me that whoever recommended the eglu to me is eligible for a £20 voucher. Jenny, in whose garden I first saw a red eglu some years ago, was mightily surprised to receive an over-excited phone call while she was sitting at Gatwick waiting to fly off to a week’s retreat in a remote French monastery, telling her to apply for her voucher when she returns. (I don't think that keeping chickens and the wish to go on a retreat are linked, but I'll check when she's back.)

No hens yet, though. It’s torture, but I’m waiting until London Book Fair is over. I don’t want to move the girls in and then abandon them for four days while I check in with the international publishing community in the aisles at Earls Court.

I'm amused by how much interest my future flock is raising though. It seems that the British publishing world is full of wannabe smallholders (co-incidentally Jenny of the red eglu is founder of Advance Materials, independent publisher of language teaching materials). And whilst I've had no recommendations at all from british publishers about which ebook reader to buy, there have been several suggestions on the right breeds to populate the eglu (it's comforting for example to know that someone at Britannica knows his Sussexes from his Orpingtons). I wonder - when and if I finally obtain my Kindle - whether I'll receive half so many suggestions for what to read on it.