A couple of weeks ago I was bitching
that none of my favourite authors had their most recent books available in eBook format.
Well as luck would have it, Tom Wolfe just released his new novel
I am Charlotte Simmons
and it is available as an eBook!

I went to 3 sources to check out the prices: Fictionwise had
it for US$15 (but with a 50% rebate added to your account), eReader.com for US$13.50 and
for US$10.20. Although Amazon was the cheapest, I decided to buy it from
Fictionwise because a) they’re an eBook specialist and I like their services, b)
Fictionwise had a full explanation of the formats available and what hardware you need,
whereas Amazon offered no help or assurances in that regard, and c) the 50% rebate
convinced me it was worth bypassing the cheapest deal (Amazon) on this occasion.

The download process was fairly painless and it was mainly my over-cautious approach
that slowed things down (I double-checked the format and hardware specs, looked over
Fictionwise’s policies, etc). The download was offered in two “secure” formats: eReader
and Microsoft Reader. I chose eReader, simply because I already have the software
installed on my Palm T2 PDA.

The Fictionwise download process was very smooth and to unlock the eBook, I just had
to enter my name and Visa card number. So all in all, everything went well. Experienced
eBook readers will be going “Duh!” at that statement, but when it’s your first purchase
of an eBook you worry about things like whether the installation/unlocking will be
successful and what will happen if the format is incompatible etc. So I commend
Fictionwise on a user-friendly and intuitive download process, particularly for the
extensive help webpages and explanations of eBook formats and hardware requirements (as I
mentioned, that was missing from Amazon).

Regarding pricing, I still think eBooks need to come down in price some more in order
to attract new customers. Amazon are offering the hardcover book for US$17.37, which is
only a couple of dollars more than I paid for the electronic version at Fictionwise.
However I would’ve had to pay some hefty delivery charges to buy the hardcover at Amazon
(one drawback of living on the other side of the world), so the zero delivery cost of
eBooks is a big plus for me.

The other factor was the immediate delivery of the book via Internet download.
Being in New Zealand, typically I have to wait 3-4 weeks for Amazon deliveries. New
Zealand book retailers as far as I know don’t stock this book yet (and even if they did,
book prices are generally significantly higher in NZ stores than on Amazon – even
factoring in delivery). So eBook format is probably the only way I’d get to read Wolfe’s
new book before Christmas.

All up, NZ$20 isn’t a bad price to pay for a brand new book I can’t wait to read – so
I’m happy. I’ll let you know how the reading experience goes in a later post.