Since the Tools of Change conference, I’ve been thinking a lot about women, technology, eBooks, and most of all, complacency.
While I have some specific standards about fiction, particularly romance, I’ve never been one to really question corporations. I figure, if they make decisions I don’t like, I won’t shop there, if I can avoid it.
But with ebooks, and specifically epublishing, the community and the market are too small. If Amazon does things I don’t like, I won’t swear not to shop there because the fact is, I do, for many different things. I’ll be frank: with this site, plus my other job, plus the small young dudes, I have in effect three full-time jobs. So the possibility of delivery of most of the things I need that aren’t fruit, vegetables, and milk? I’m on that like damn and whoa.
And because of that lack of time, I no longer have acres of leisure time to figure out why file A won’t play nicely with device B, or why this particular computer program isn’t working. Used to be I could hack my way through anything. No, I’m doing six things at once and don’t have any time to focus solely on some ebook that’s having a temper tantrum because it’s DRM is refusing to leave the swingset even though its turn is over.
Yet Amazon continues to make decisions that affect e-reading and e-book buyers that make me pull my hair out. The bubble boy, for example: Kindle 2.0? BIGGER than the previous device in length? What, I ask, the fuck? The monolithic attitude toward formats that sacrifices my ability to bargain shop for the sake of relative ease of use? Again, I say: Feh!
Since the ToC conference, I’ve had a big wake up call. The ebook, epub, and ereader community is so small that disgruntled users cannot be ignored. And more importantly, women, who buy more technology and spend more on fiction, cannot be ignored either. While my usual course of action is to quietly do my own thing, it’s time I yelled more and spoke up about the things that make me nuts, and demand changes where I think they ought to be made as pertains to digital publishing and reader issues.
At the exhibition hall, there were devices like the readius that seemed to have been developed without questioning what the customer would actually want in a device as pertains to loading content. A fold-up reader with a touchslide and fast-changing e-Ink? Nice. A completely closed system that doesn’t allow me to add my own books? I remain mystified by the entire concept.
I said repeatedly at the ToC that I didn’t think the program reflected enough of the reader experience. My rant at our panel was simple: women readers are the readers you are looking for. We are the readers you need – if you want to make money and continue to develop digital publishing and reading initiatives.
Angie James linked to a poor customer service rant about the Sony Reader that discusses the six month warranty and how frustrating it is to have a device go bad after such a paltry warranty period. While my experiences with Sony have been fantastic, a six month warranty is troublesome. But larger than that, I’ve been ranting lately about the void into which any and all of my feedback email messages to Amazon have disappeared, with nary and answer or even a form reply in sight. While the phone-based support is alarmingly fast – request that they call you, give them a number, and in less than 5 seconds your phone rings – the answers I’ve received to any problems have been based upon a theme of “It’s a network problem in your area. Check back with us later and it should be fixed.” No answers that satisfied my curiosity were forthcoming to my queries as to why a particular PDF or HTML file didn’t go through, except to say “That feature is experimental.”
“Experimental,” it seems, is code for, “Don’t know why it didn’t work, and don’t care anyway. So move along.”
Customer service, shopping options, and ease of use are the trifecta of attracting the female reader to digital publishing and ebook reading devices. In the coming weeks, I’ll be staging Olympic competitions between Kindle I, Kindle II, the Sony 505 and the Sony 700, to see which device reigns supreme. I welcome your testing or obstacle course suggestions – let me know if you have any ideas or experiences you’d like me to replicate.
But most of all, the time has come for me to Speak the Hell Up and Get Loud. After ToC, I realized, perhaps the reason we women readers aren’t being heard or responded to is because we haven’t made enough noise. Being the largest consumer demographic buying electronics, and the largest group buying fiction clearly isn’t enough.
Women readers need to explain point by point to manufacturers and digital publishers what specifically appeals to us, why, and how those publishers and device manufacturers should reach us through product development and marketing campaigns. We shouldn’t have to explain what to me seems obvious – women read more, women buy more electronics, and women are loyal, repeat customers – but it seems that we do. [Thank you to Jane for the links.]
So bring it on. What makes you happy in an e-reader, digital publisher, or retailer? What turns you off?