Last Fall, there was a lot of confusion over exactly what Gemstar was planning to do with the Rocket e-book hardware that it acquired from NuvoMedia. At that time, Gemstar was still claiming it would keep the Rocket e-book relatively open, but in an article about the Rocket e-book Jeff Kirvin indicated that Gemstar was heading toward a more closed model where all content for the Rocket e-book would have to come from Gemstar servers. I wrote that a closed model would be suicide.
Now Kirvin has written an excellent follow-up article dissecting the numerous mistakes made by Gemstar which have pretty much taken the Rocket e-book out of contention as a serious product these days. Not only did they go to a business model where all the content had to come from their serves, but Gemstar also a) never even tried to offer anything but the latest bestsellers at hardcover prices and b) systematically did everything possible to kill the independent user communities that Nuvo Media (who originally created and marketed the Rocket e-book) had tried to build.
At this point, I’m skeptical that there will ever be a market for standalone e-book readers after Gemstar’s failure. Kirvin mentions the Franklin eBookMan as an inexpensive alternative to the Rocket e-book. Although the Franklin does seem to understand that it needs to encourage independent content creators, the device has received almost universally negative reviews except from the diehard e-book fans. Personally, I’m more likely to buy something like an IPaq and use that for e-books rather than buy a separate device — the quick growth in features of PDAs is really rendering dedicated e-book readers pointless.
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