cool-er I have been following this new e-book reader called COOL-ER which released a few weeks earlier. The device sports a cool design inspired by the iPod and Apple’s design sense and has been developed by the British firm Interead. The device supports a variety of file formats, has the standard e-Ink display. While it has received quite a lot of favorable coverage, its also got a fair share of negative comments as well. Some of these, like a huge lapse in designing button functionality and poor build quality are deserved. However a lot of the comments on various blogs, reviews etc. as well as the reviews themselves compare this device very unfairly with the Kindle. Interestingly, most of the complaints were to do with a lack of wireless delivery of content to the e-book and the lack of a broad range of books. In my opinion, these aren’t the deal breakers they are made out to be (though the second one may be, but more on that later). This got me thinking of reasons on why I’d prefer the Cool-er over the Kindle. Here’s my list of top 5 reasons to go with the Cool-er instead of the Kindle:

  1. The Cool-er actually looks kind of cool
    Well, lets face it, the clunky Kindle isn’t gonna win a beauty contest. The Cool-er on the other hand, with its slim iPod like looks actually looks better. And its surprisingly lightweight.
  2. The Cool-er comes at a cool price
    The Cool-er costs $249 in the US. The Kindle on the other hand costs $359 for the Kindle 2 and $489 for the Kindle DX, a huge $110-$240 more than the Cool-er. While the DX offers a bigger screen and better features, which may justify the higher price tag, the Kindle 2 still remains more expensive. Part of the higher cost is due to the “features” that Kindle offers, like free Wireless access, whose cost is built into the device price. The higher cost also makes the Kindle less economical for you if you aren’t an avid reader. Jason Perlow reports that in order to recover the cost of a Kindle over a year,  it would need someone to buy 6 books (about $10 each) per month or 72 books a year!!
  3. The Cool-er only jacks into your PC/Mac via USB, no fancy Wireless
    One of the key selling points of the Kindle is its content delivery system, Amazon Whispernet. Whispernet runs on Sprint’s network and allows Kindle users wireless access to download books and surf content on an “experimental” browser. Free Wireless Internet access ? Isn’t that great? . Well I’d say it depends, on where you live. Most people tend to forget that the Kindle’s killer feature only works in the US and that too only in locations where Sprint has coverage. If your living outside the US, say for instance like in India,  to the best of my knowledge, you are reduced to synching your Kindle with your computer via USB. Since this is something you’d be forced to do anyway (if you dont’ live in the US), the Cool-er’s lack of wireless doesn’t seem such a bad deal. Also due to the fact that the cost of the Kindle is used to subsidize the free wireless, you would also be effectively paying for a feature you cannot use (unless you relocate to the US) if you go with the Kindle. The Cool-er does lack a desktop program to help you synch the device with your computer. You currently have to copy the files on to the device just like while using an USB drive.
  4. The cool thing about Cool-er is that its open
    Cool-er supports a wide variety of common e-book formats (the format list isn’t as extensive as the Hanlin e-book reader, but covers the important ones). In my opinion though the fact that the Cool-er supports the open ePub format for e-books is commendable. The books bought for the Cool-er can be also be shared with up to 5 devices, kind of lending a book to a friend. The Kindle on the other hand restricts paid content to its proprietary AZW format, though it can read other common formats as well (has been known to give problems with PDF files). And no, you cant share that book with your best pal on the Kindle.
  5. The Cool-er can increase its storage
    The first generation Cool-er comes with 1GB internal storage. This is expandable to a further 4GB through a SD card slot. Amazon it seems has decided to follow the Apple model of product feature design aka the “closed garden”. It sells its current Kindle model with only 2GB internal memory which is not expandable via a card slot (the Kindle 2 has no card slot at all). Though given the size of today’s e-books, it seems that 2GB will be more than adequate. However you never know because someone might just create an “i-Tunes” for books and make downloading books so easy and cheap, that even 4GB will be fast filled.

Which brings me back to the question of availability of content for the device. The Cool-er comes with its own e-book store with over 750,000 titles. While this may seem a lot, its still does not stock the latest best sellers (this may change in the future). However, in my opinion this lack of choice for e-books isn’t so much a problem for the growth of the market for devices like the Cool-er or Kindle. The real issue is the price point. A cursory look at the prices for Guillermo Del Toro’s latest book “The Strain” reveals how badly structured they are. The e-book edition retails for $14.57 on Amazon to $26.99-$19.99 on other sites. The dead tree edition costs just $16.19 (Hardcover) with free shipping on Amazon. I strongly feel that prices for e-books must come down to a much lower level to make it worthwhile for people to invest in dedicated devices and buy e-books. Given the fact that there is no real investment in “printing” an e-book and incremental cost of delivery is practically non-existent, I feel that e-book publishers must pass on the benefits to consumers in the form of lower prices in order to get people to consider e-books as a serious cost efficient alternative to paper books and not some temporary gadget led fad.

In the end though whether the Cool-er is really better than the Kindle or not doesn’t really matter for me, for even after one decade of having the e-book reader device around (the first e-book reader debuted way back in 1998), manufacturers are yet to release any e-book reader in India. So while the rest of the world curls up with their favorite e-book reader, I am still waiting…

PS: Did I mention that Cool-er buyers get a 25% discount on books bought at the Cool-er bookstore for life? :)

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  4. charliehorse43 says:

    I can see your point on the cooler over the kindle. I live in rural U
    SA were the Sprint network is next to nothing. I still think I will wait for a few years and see if the price will come down on them.

  5. enygmatic says:

    Kindle’s great provided you can use the wireless features. If you cant, then its of no real use. In fact with the huge storage in today’s readers, you can easily transfer a year’s worth of e-books onto the device in a matter of minutes using USB.