The Best of Today’s E-Book Readers

November 6th, 2009

So much easier to use the title of the article I’m blogging that to think up another title that says the same thing: “The Best of Today’s E-Book Readers” is the name of a brief, superficial and badly-researched article in PC World, published November 2nd.

I note it for two reasons. The first is that the author gives the top prize to SONY not Amazon. Related to this is that the prize is apparently awarded to SONY because of its support of the open ePub format, versus Amazon’s proprietary format. My comments about the article, also posted to the site:

I feel this is a very weak and badly-researched article. My reasons:

1. ePub is an open format of the IDPF. Adobe supports it, but it’s not “Adobe ePub.”

2. “Eliminating paper saves resources”: this is a VERY tired and largely inaccurate statement. It has emotional appeal: eBooks don’t kill trees. Many eBook enthusiasts naively argue that the carbon footprint of eBooks is negligible, while printed books are environmentally evil. This assessment is far too simplistic. The millions of servers utilized 24 hours a day by companies like Amazon and Google consume vast amounts of electricity. So too of course do computers, most of which are also left on around the clock. The consumer electronics industry operates on a planned obsolesce model. Hardware usually cannot be upgraded sufficiently to support new features; it must be replaced. While the computer industry is making sincere efforts to encourage recycling, according to the Electronics Takeback Coalition (, “only 13.6% of the consumer electronic products generated into the municipal waste stream [meaning, that people tossed out] were ‘recovered’ for recycling in 2007. This compares to the overall recovery rate of all categories of municipal waste (which) was 33.4% in 2007.” The same source quotes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that 41.1 million desktops & laptops were discarded in 2007 in the U.S. All of this coincides with a time when the forestry, papermaking and printing industries are making great strides in reducing their carbon footprint.

3. Finally, the reviewer does not appreciate just how venal was Amazon’s miserable attempt to dominate the marketplace with the aid of a non-standard digital format, AZW. Now that all of the important competitors do support the industry-standard ePub format, surely SONY deserves more than 2 bonus points for its ongoing ePub support.