Students and Commuters: Hooray for eBooks!

Students and commuters have something to look forward to both in class and on the bus, train, or plane because of the ereader revolution.

The first digital nomads, students and freelance entrepreneurs have been mobile computing at Starbucks and other WiFi hotspots for years using first laptops, then smartphones like the iPhone, and now tablet computers, slates, and ereaders. Ereaders are primarily for reading books, but can read magazines and newspapers too, some free, some by subscription, and some by one-time purchases. Some ebook readers like Barne’s and Noble’s nook let you share ebooks using a feature called LendMe. Publishers have not been as willing to sign up for LendMe as much as users would hope, but that trend may change in the future. And now ereaders are starting to be able to do more than just read ebooks. For example, the Nook just got an upgrade to allow it to play games and surf the web, but Apple’s iPad is a computer with an ebook reader.

Student Life

One can imagine that students going back to school this fall may have a completely different experience, one which may be missing one heavy staple from the past: textbooks. Instead of carrying large books around in a book bag, one could see students carrying nooks wrapped in their nook covers containing their nook ebooks. This would be quite a contrast, but will publishers buy into it and publish their textbooks in ebook form? Will students buy enough ebook readers to support it? Will schools and teachers allow the ebook readers in their classrooms? We won’t know for sure until later on this year.

Commuting: More Green Benefits

Not only do commuters help the environment and their wallet by sharing rides or riding public transportation, but they also help reduce the amount of paper and distribution cost of that paper when they choose an ebook over a traditional paper book. Car drivers everywhere, while they can come and go as they please, have higher costs from maintaining an automobile, create more pollution, and don’t get to relax with a newspaper, whether that newspaper be in paper form or as an ebook. Will subway trains be full of ebook readers in the future? What will people hide behind when they don’t want to look at the person across from them on the train, plane, or bus? Maybe they’ll all just get along a little better, and maybe share an ebook too.

The eReader Revolution

How eReaders (also written e-Readers), which are digital readers for eBooks (also written e-Books) have taken over the tech news and gadget landscape? From Amazon’s Kindle™ which was first released on November 19, 2007 to Barnes and Noble’s nook™ which was first released November 30, 2009 to Apple’s iPad which was released April 3, 2010, there clearly is a revolution going on in how books are read, purchased, stored, and shared.

The first chart shows the dramatic rise in news articles related to ereaders starting in 2009. This chart also highlights the differences in spelling of the different terms for ebook readers. While there is no official way of spelling it (both ereader and e-reader are acceptable), Google Trends clearly shows that “ereader” is used more often or is more popular. In general I think that if hyphens can be avoided, they will be, just as in “e-mail” is more often written as “email.”

The second chart shows the steady rise of Amazon’s Kindle, followed by the nearly identical rise of Barnes and Noble’s Nook an Sony’s Reader. Other ebook readers like the Que and Alex don’t yet register in comparison to the traffic of these other major players, but if you compare Apple’s iPad against this chart, it makes the Kindle look pathetic in comparison.

Now these are mostly news trends and not necessarily a reflection of popularity or quality, but it does highlight a tipping point in the use of ebook readers that happened at the end of 2009, about a year after the market crash in 2008. Despite a recession and a bad world-wide economic situation, consumers have still went out and purchased not just ebooks and ereaders, but e-reader accessories, which can sometimes equal or cost more than the ereader itself. Nook covers, for example, average around $25 each.

How about you? Do you own an ereader or plan on purchasing one in 2010? Answer in the comments below.

Working Anywhere – The Search for the Mobile Office

3G, WiMax, it was all supposed to make the Internet ubiquitous and the cost so minimal that it would be free.  It did not and is not.  So how does someone hopped up on the Four Hour Workweek Get Things Done while out on the road (or to avoid paying rent like the rest of the suits)?  I decided to find out.

Wardriving is a term based on the act of wardialing (which is coined from the movie War Games), but adapted to driving around looking for WiFi hot spots.  Check your local law books on this one.  In some places its illegal, but this mostly applies to connecting to private networks.  Today I went looking for public networks to use for access to the great gig in the Skynet.

McDonalds and Pilot truck stops both offered WiFi for a fee of around $3 an hour or $20 a month.  Pilot had unlimited for $150 a year prepaid.  This might be a good option for a trucker or someone who lives near a Pilot.  I can’t see getting too much work done at a McDonalds, but I suppose if the conditions were right you could.  Some hotels have free WiFi access, but you should ethically be staying there before using it.  Panera is hands down the place to go.  Its free and has a good atmosphere for it, just don’t abuse it.  Someone has been arrested for stealing Internet access from Panera after he was seen using it from the parking lot for over a year.  Just use the golden rule on this one and if its “free” like at Panera, throw ’em some change once in a while for a coffee or two.

For more information on coworking, visit Nook Share.