These Ain’t Last Year’s eReaders

At the TOC conference this year, the conversation is not longer about explaining eBook basicis–now panelists are talking about interoperability between dozens of devices, reading on the cloud, and how not to piss off consumers, who suddenly have a lot of devices and stores to choose between. “e-Ink devices now look a thousand years old,” said Liza Daly, at the outset of her panel on eReaders. Keith Fahlgren during the same panel, called the Kindle 2 a “monochromatic chunk of plastic.”

Daly and Fahlgren are the team behind the Ibis reader system, a browser-based eBook system. They presented a short talk on the state of eReaders, during which they differentiated between “landlocked” devices (eReaders without wireless or other means of communication) and mobile devices. Their talk emphasized that the world of eReaders is totally different now than it was a year ago. “It’s quite clear now that if you have to plug your thing into your computer,” said Fahlgren, “you’re not going to get any of the benefits that we’re about to talk about.”

The talk also focused the problem of interoperability–that the big players in the eReader world are still making the eBooks they sell for their devices incompatible with other devices. In the world Fahlberg imagines, “Consumers should never really have to care about things like formats again,” because eBooks are interoperable.