Has the world gone topsy-turvy? Is that a flying swine flitting past a blue moon?

That’s how I felt this week as Sony Australia, fresh from the local launch of their new touchscreen eReaders, asked me to solicit the opinions of the eReading public at large. What do they like, what do they hate? What direction would they like us to go in?

Huh? Wha? They want to actually know what we think? So they can improve their business and products? The ones that we buy? Sure, that process could only feed through and improve a company’s bottom line, but it’s still rare enough to not quite sound right coming out of the mouth.

Yes, I’m being cynical, but it’s funny how consumers become cynical after experiencing wave after wave of industry and product decisions driven by reasons other than making it easier for consumers to consume. We know it to be a fact that ease of use leads to more sales. It’s a marketing truth. So whyis it ignored so much?

That’s why, when you are valued enough to be asked for your opinion, you think “Wow. Really? Is there a catch? What are they selling?” Why would a consumer think that if not because they felt they had been taken for granted, dictated to, sold at.

Yet in Sydney next week Sony Australia are running an industry round table to answer the big questions of ereading here, which can be boiled down to “what next?” I couldn’t get down there for the event but I’m only one opinion. What if we captured hundreds of opinions of, like, you know,ordinary consumers? Revolutionary.

So the survey was born (click here if you’d like to have a say), and to hear that Sony executives are excitedly awaiting the results is so refreshing as to be almost unreal.

Then there’s Canada’s (and elsewhere’s) Kobo Books, who have touted themselves at the open-to-all ebook vendor. This week they put their software where there mouth is and launched their Kobo Destop, which syncs your Kobo library with a range of ePUB ereaders from within the program. This software is already out there.

And again with the double-take. They’re enabling their books to be moved to non-Kobo devices? Yes, you could have achieved the same result with Adobe’s (and others’) software anyway, but Kobo could have saved time and money not including that feature, and kept a closer reign on their ebooks. It would have added another step – enough to put a few people off, surely.

But the big end of town is starting to wake up to the fact that “hard” is bad, and “easy” is good. And if you are forced to choose, “easy” trumps”safe” and “branded” and “locked”.

But in every story there is a bad guy – in this tale there’s several. A new one on the block is the hacker, evil cousin to our long-time black-hat, the illegal file-sharer. News has surfaced in the last couple of days that all versions of Adobe’s Reader and Acrobat software up to and including versions 9.3.4 have a “zero day” security flaw that, says Adobe:

“This vulnerability (CVE-2010-2883) could cause a crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system. There are reports that this vulnerability is being actively exploited in the wild.”

Joy. That this could have a big impact on ebook reading via PDF-format ebooks and the software that supports them is self-evident. There is more info here, but the bottom line is to not open strange email attachments.

And so the battle of good v evil, consumers v malware-DRM-anti-consuming-locks-and-systems continues.

Editor’s Note: Australian journalist Jason Davis contributes a regular column to TeleRead on the state of “e” in Australia and New Zealand. Jason also runs the BookBee and EbookAnt websites. PB.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail