Monday, January 31, 2011

E Ink Shortage Roils Ebook World

The ebook world -- including the Amazon Kindle and all its imitators -- has been shaken by a sudden drop in the supply of E Ink.

Chalk it up to an unforeseen consequence of too much success too fast. Or maybe greed is at the root of it. They probably should have seen it coming but they didn't. And now we all have to suffer.

Millions of readers have already emptied their shelves of books to make way for ebooks, turning to the little reader devices. Of course they thought all would be well and there would be no problems. But reality always seems to have a way of intruding on everyone's best laid plans.

With the sudden drop in the supply of E Ink, ebooks are already very scarce and the problem threatens to get worse. To deal with the crisis, is now limiting customers to one ebook a month, or two if you can prove you can actually read that fast. No relief is in sight.

Like the supplies of gasoline, where we are used to shortages and price increases supposedly due to continuous retooling for summer and winter blends and other screwing around, it's anyone's guess what the problem is with E Ink production. To be frank, we're not entirely what E Ink even is, but we think they crunch up black chalk and mix it with chemicals. As to how there could be a shortage, when's the last time you shopped for black chalk? It's tough to find.

Speaking for myself, of course I prefer the Kindle to actual books. Shakespeare only wrote one book but it's a thick one! It's a lot easier to cart your whole library around when it weighs nothing. But with the shortage, I'm glad I kept a few old fashioned books, just in case they don't get it resolved by the time I read the 600+ page ebook on the Third Reich I'm currently working on.

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