Monday, August 02, 2010

Getting things done

When was the last time you did something new online? Last week I did two things I’d never done before, though I’ve done similar things: I ordered a Kindle edition of a book from Amazon and I paid Jake’s registration online.

The dog registration was no big deal, really: We already pay all our other taxes electronically one way or another. But Jake’s registration was due last Friday and I didn’t really want to take the time to find our local office to pay it, mostly because it would’ve taken quite a bit of time once you add in parking and so on.

The book was something entirely different, though buying songs through iTunes is similar. My motivation was that one of my gay podcaster friends is planning a book club, and I thought it might be fun to take part.

The problem is, as I’ve written about before, books are expensive in New Zealand. A new paperback retails for between $25-$35 (US$18.23 to US$25.52), though I’ve seen recently-released paperback books as high as $55 (US$40.11). That’s a bit high to take a punt on a book I may not even like.

The paperback version was available through Whitcoulls for $34.95 (roughly US$25.49). Whitcoulls recently launched an ebooks store, complete with iPad application, but a digital version isn’t available through them. Fishpond.co.nz had the paperback, too, but for $35.99. These were not options.

Enter Amazon.

The paperback book was on special, but there’s international shipping and possible import duty and/or GST on top of that, so the price becomes less attractive. The Kindle version, however, was only US$10.57, or today about NZ$14.50—about 42% of the paper price, with no duty or GST payable. That’s a powerful motivator to go digital.

I already had the Kindle app on my iPod Touch and the Mac desktop version of the software is now available. So, I downloaded it, installed it, and then used it to access Amazon to buy the book. In seconds it was downloaded on my Mac (shockingly easy, actually). Later, I downloaded it to my iPod Touch, too, which is where I’m reading it.

Amazon never sealed a deal for wireless service for the Kindle in New Zealand, but it now sells the devices here, anyway. That’s nice, but I’m holding out for an Apple iPad, precisely because I want to use it as an e-reader (among other things). I can read the iPod Touch screen, but the iPad would be much better.

I know there are many people who are uneasy about the whole e-publishing thing, and I’ll come back to this subject again. But for readers in a small country on the edge of the world, Kindle editions are a great way to get books that would be far too expensive otherwise—which means we can read even more.

The only trouble I have, of course, is that I’m a slow reader, and none of these technologies fix that. They make my wallet happy, though.

Update 03 August 2010: Jake's new tag arrived in the post today. So, I paid on their website on Friday, they posted the tag yesterday and I received it today. Pretty convenient!


Juli Ryan said...

Books are so expensive in NZ. I'm a fast reader, and I borrow most of my books from my local library. But with e-books being so cheap, I imagine I will start building an e-book library very soon.

I also have a iPod Touch, which I love, and I think I'd be able to read a book on it. You probably know about it, but there also is the iBooks app.

At some point, I hope we are able to buy an iPad. My son, Five, will love it. I think I'd also like to buy a Kindle device, just for reading books. The price has been cut, and I've heard that the Kindle has a more "bookish" feel with less glare on the screen.

I hope Amazon gets its act together with the NZ wireless agreement. They dropped the ball a while back with their mp3 store.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Sadly, the iBook app is only available for iPod Touch second gen or above, and mine if first generation (another reason I want an iPad). So far, there's also apparently little or nothing available for iBooks in New Zealand apart from free classics, and I can get them for Stanza (my e-book app of choice, actually).

Funny you should mention the glare: I heard someone else mention that recently, saying he couldn't see taking an iPad to the beach to read, but the Kindle he could. I thought to myself that I wouldn't take either to a beach! I wonder, though, if some of the screen protectors people buy might reduce the glare.

I don't think the Kindle reader offers me anything, apart from being cheaper than an iPad; with wifi I could update stuff on the iPad just as easily as on a 3G Kindle (or iPad, for that matter).

My e-books so far have all been free classics, apart from this first one, but it's so easy and, as you say, cheap to buy e-books, I wouldn't rule that out in the future.

I've have a feeling I'll be talking about this some more!