Using Ereaders And Ebooks In Ireland: The 2011 Edition – Part One

The rise of Interest in Kindle over the last year. Note the spike, now surpassed, from last Christmas

2011 has seen an upsurge in interest in ebooks and ereaders in Ireland. IPN started to notice a huge spike in search traffic for Kindle’s, ebooks and a number of other devices in November. In an effort to help people make decisions in the run in to what looks to be the biggest ebook Christmas in Ireland so far we decided to write about ebooks and e-readers in Ireland, where to get them, how to use them and everything else. If the piece doesn’t answer your questions, comment below and we’ll respond asap.

The Basics
The best place to start is to set down some glossary terms that people should have a grasp of when it comes to ebooks.

The first of these is the difference between ebooks and ereaders. Ereaders are the devices one reads on: Kobo, Kindle, Sony eReader, iPad, iPhone and any of the myriad other devices one can read a book on in digital form. The ebooks are the actual digital books themselves.

There are two basic ebook formats azw (Amazon’s Kindle format) and epub (many other outlets).  There are several others, but these two are  the ones you will most likely encounter. If you need more information about formats, Wikipedia has a good summary here.

Irish customers can buy ebooks in either format. What’s more for epubs, Irish customers have a considerable choice in who they buy their epub ebooks from and in the type of ereaders they use to read them on.

Most dedicated ereaders have an Eink screen. Eink screens only use power when they change page or perform some other action. They use small electrical charges to change the orientation of white or dark pigments contained within tiny capsules. Between them, the white and the dark capsules spell out the words on the screen.

These screens come very close to replicating the visual landscape of a paper page in a paper book. Combined with the form factor for most readers and their weight this makes them akin to holding either a medium-sized paperback book or a small hardback, and often even lighter.

Devices that are not dedicated to ebooks, like Apple’s iOS devices, the Kindle Fire, the new Nook Tablet and the new Kobo Vox tend to use backlit screens which some people like and others don’t. They are also multi-functional devices with many uses.

Some devices have slick end-to-end platforms in place to sell you ebooks for your device. Examples of these platforms include Amazon, Apple and Kobo.

Ebooks attract a 21% (soon to be 23%) VAT rate a complication that presents problems across the EU (for more on the VAT issues on ebooks in Ireland, read this post on VAT and ebooks by Zoe Faulder).

The Platforms
This section will cover in detail may of the platforms Irish people can buy ebooks on. This post covers Amazon’s Kindle and the post on Wednesday will deal in-depth with other platforms like Apple, Kobo and Easons.


Amazon


Perhaps because Amazon have been the game changer in the ereader and ebook space, there is a tendancy to refer to all ereaders as Kindles, but in truth only Amazon ereaders are called Kindles. Amazon recently launched a Kindle Tablet, the Kindle Fire, with a  full colour screen and access to content other than books. This device is not yet available to Irish customers. PC World, Curry’s and Tesco are selling the basic Kindle and a 3G version. Otherwise the device should be bought from the Amazon.com site.

Irish customers must buy Kindle ebooks from the Amazon.com site too*. This wrinkle means that although there are now four Euro denominated Kindle stores (Spain, Italy, Germany and France) Irish buyers purchase their ebooks in Dollars and with a slight price disadvantage.

Despite that however, Kindle is a comprehensive platform with significant features. It offers cross-platform, and device, syncing, samples, wi-fi and 3G downloads, a social network for Kindle users, and a new Cloud Reader that allows a user to read a book online. They also compete heavily on price and encourage lower pricing. Finally it has an impressive (probably the best) selection of titles.

Device Types: The Kindle range is increasingly diverse,  starting with the basic option which features neither a keyboard nor touch capabilities. The mid-range options include a touch based pair and another featuring a keyboard. The new Fire tablet breaks quite dramatically with the existing form factor. Not all options can be purchased in Ireland through Amazon.com and retail stores. Most stores will only offer the basic version and the Kindle Keyboard 3G.
Device Pricing: Basic, non-touch device €109-115 in store or around €125 via Amazon.com. 3G device with keyboard €179-195 in stores like PC World, Tesco and Currys and around 220 via Amazon.com (Amazon price includes shipping, taxes etc.).
Ebook Pricing: Huge selection of free ebooks, both classics and self published titles. Many mainstream-published titles from 2l.99 to 9.99 especially from second-tier publishing houses (ie not the big six publishers). Bestsellers trending towards 60-80% of print price especially from big six publishers. Some specialist titles have either parity or more expensive ebook editions. Irish publishers are well represented in the Kindle store.

Other:
One of the major reasons why Kindle has prospered has been its Kindle Direct Platform, a way for writers and publishers to self publishers their content directly to Kindle and most importantly to sell it. Buying ebooks through Amazon.com is a bit irritating especially as the pricing is in Dollars. Even so the selection is huge and well priced (mostly). You can complain about Amazon for many other things but their platform is easy to use, filled with good books and makes sense for most readers.

IPN Rating: 4.5/5 (loses .5 for the Dollar pricing)

*Of course assuming you follow the correct set-up and don’t a UK address and a UK credit Card which allows you to open an Amazon.co.uk account.