new ereader purchaseOne of my fun new discoveries of the year was that a co-worker who shares my bus route also shares my love of books. She and I have been spending our commute comparing recent reads, swapping book ideas, and gently teasing each other about our respective technology choices. It was all in good fun, until her Kindle died mid-commute the other day and she started shopping around for a new one.

It was a fascinating look, for me, into the mind of the ‘average’ customer. I have long ago recognized that my own views on ebooks and technology and the book market in general are not typical. This is a hobby for me, and a business too, so I realize most people just don’t care as much about the nitty-gritty as I do. I correct the typos as I read. I have strong opinions on issues like cloud storage and DRM which most regular users neither understand nor care about. So, how does a regular user feel about their ebook purchases? What tilts their decision toward a specific device over another one?

For starters, she has been swayed by the power of brand recognition. Her priority was replacing her beloved device as soon as possible, so I suggested she head on over to Indigo after work and get herself a Kobo. No dice. ‘But the Kindle is a better one, isn’t it?’ She asked me. Well, no. Not necessarily. I’ve used both devices and find them pretty functionally equivalent. And there are things she says she wants to do, like sign out library books, which can not be done on a Kindle here.

But she has been seduced by the Kindle name and kept telling me she had to get another Kindle so she’d have the best one.

It also seemed she had an incentive to stay with the Kindle brand because she, like my non-techie mother, has a bizarre fear of the on-line store. To tide her over until her new Kindle arrived, I helped her download the Kindle app onto her new Android phone, only to watch her spend a frustrating lunch hour trying every password her husband has ever used, so she could sign into his account and access some books.

Why didn’t she have her own account? Well, she just used his. It’s always been that way. Well, didn’t she want to sign up for her own? Would it not be easier, and faster, than this? Not particularly. It’s bizarre to me. My mom has had the same first-generation Kobo registered to my account for several years. I am sure neither Kobo nor Amazon intended for this. They expect that each person will have their own account, and their own device to go with it.

Surprise #3? She had zero interest in bells and whistles of any kind. I reverently described to her the glories of the Paperwhite, from the cloud collections feature to the built-in light. She remained unimpressed. “But I just want to read on it,” she said, and then bought the cheapest Kindle of the bunch.