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Old 11-21-2010, 08:57 AM   #1
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Shopping for an ereader? Good luck

As the holidays approach, I imagine there are quite a few people giving serious thought to buying a dedicated ebook reader for a friend or loved one (or themselves). Though I read on a smartphone, I regularly give thought to checking out a dedicated reader that might come in handy on a vacation, or allow me to read magazines, etc. And if I happen to be in a store that carries a reader or two, I may drift over that way to try to check them out.

In most cases, I'm almost sorry I did. The reason is that, in most stores I venture into that have readers, they are rarely displayed in a way that allows you to actually try them out. Many stores just carry dummy displays that show you a simulated display image in a simulated case. Some stores only have boxed products that you can't open until after you buy it. My local Best Buy had 5 readers, but displayed a dummy for one, and nothing but boxes for another. Naturally, the Nook, Kindle and Sony had working devices on display.

When I asked a Best Buy employee about it, I was actually surprised to discover she knew something about the situation. "We originally had a device on display," she told me about one of the less-well-known products. "But some customer broke the screen, so we had to put the dummy up."

In Target, I saw Kindles... all behind a glass case, with nothing on display. I could find no one on the sales floor who could tell me anything about them, and I was not allowed to open a box until I bought it. In other stores I've gone into, it's the same story: They have devices, but nothing you can actually take for a test-drive.

I don't have any interest in being locked into one store or another, and I don't mind using less-well-known devices. But when you can't actually examine them to see how well they work, how likely is it that you'll want to get one for yourself... much less someone else? In many cases, these are devices that people haven't used before (let's face it, the number of ebook readers is still low), and it is important to make sure they are good with the ergonomics and operating aspects of a potential device, which can be very different from device to device. And sure, if you search the web you can probably find reviews on every device. But everyone has different needs, and sometimes, you just need to see--and touch--it for yourself.

Has anyone else found themselves vexed by non-working displays... or no displays or helpful salespeople at all? Do you feel certain stores do these products justice, and are providing good shopping experiences? Do you feel like buying any electronic device is pretty much a crap-shoot? Help out your fellow shoppers here.

(BTW: I didn't buy a reader, and didn't feel particularly interested in getting one.)
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Old 11-21-2010, 09:45 AM   #2
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I learned of the existence of ebook readers through an article in the technology section of a newspaper that described the Sony PRS-500. After reading it, I KNEW I wanted one. Some time after that I actually met somebody who had one (here in Argentina!) and confirmed that it was what I had dreamed of all these years. Only one problem remained: it was only sold in the USA and Japan. It took me more than 1 year and $350 to get mine (a 505 by that time).
Imagine: I had only got a glimpse of a previous model; if I didn't like it, or if it was broken, or didn't work, or failed after a couple of days.... that was it!!!
You can get yours and if you don't like it, send it back. You are in heaven, man. Stop worrying and love ebook readers!!!
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Old 11-21-2010, 09:48 AM   #3
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I walked into one of our local WalMarts a few days ago, and there sat (2) Nooks on the counter, both reading TRY ME on the display. Unfortunately, the anti-theft devices on both units covered the power button, which you have to press to wake up the unit.
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Old 11-21-2010, 09:51 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Lyle Jordan View Post
Has anyone else found themselves vexed by non-working displays... or no displays or helpful salespeople at all? Do you feel certain stores do these products justice, and are providing good shopping experiences? Do you feel like buying any electronic device is pretty much a crap-shoot?
This is true of consumer electronics in general. At least in Canada, it is rare to be able touch and feel and see working devices other than wide-screen TVs and computers. Digital cameras? Nope. E-readers? Nope. Satellite radios? Nope. Accessories? Nope. Cell phones? Nope.

I agree it's stupid but there it is. It's the simple fact of why stores like Apple Stores do so well: customers CAN actually see the devices in action, ask questions, play. Oh, and buy immediately.

This is particularly important in emerging categories where customers are unsure of what the benefit of the device is. I have yet to come across anyone who has had an ereader (and who has any history of reading novels) decide they didn't like the idea of it once they used it. In most cases, it took the ability to try it out (a friend or colleague had one), and / or some sort of assurance they could return it (lowering the risk of buying sight unseen) rather than peering at something in a box behind a glass case.

But, don't get me started on the inanities of retailing ...

Last edited by SensualPoet; 11-21-2010 at 09:55 AM. Reason: added quote for clarity
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Old 11-21-2010, 10:13 AM   #5
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I concur with SP, this is a very common problem. Ebook makers also don't have much clout with these big box stores, and they aren't selling enough for it to be a big priority for the staff.
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Old 11-21-2010, 10:15 AM   #6
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With e-readers, I figured it was best to buy, test drive and return if needed. I did that with Kindle and Sony; kept the Kindle and returned the Sony. Happily used my K2 for 15 months while away from my home library. When iPad came along, I did likewise. Turns out I'm a very happy camper with the iPad.

When gifting, I won't gift electronics that I haven't tried out and been pleased with. I've given Kindles, iPods and an iPad because I liked 'em. I wouldn't wanna inflict a PITA gift on anyone, lol.
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Old 11-21-2010, 10:32 AM   #7
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Yesterday I was in my local future shop and decided to check out the sony ereaders and apple ipads. I have a sony prs505 so I do know how the devices are supposed to work. At the ereader counter they had 2 readers on display and the accompanying signs posted the price and specs for the readers. They were listing the price and specs for the 650 and 350 but actually had a 600 on display.(I didn't look at the 350). At first I didn't realize it was a 600 but then I compared the screen to my 505 and checked the refresh time and other features. Then I flipped it over and looked for the model number and it was definately the 600. I mentioned this to a sales person who flat out told me that I was wrong and didn't know what I was talking about. I asked to see one of the ones in the case and he told me I couldn't open the box. I told him I just wanted to read the box, he asked if I was going to buy it and I said not right now I just wanted to check it out. He told me he didn't have a key for the case and assured me it was exacly the same as the one on display. Needless to say I was not impressed. I wonder how many people bought the 600 thinking it was the 650. Then I drifted over to the section selling ipads. there were 5 working units on display each showing different apps in use. The salesperson here was more knowledagble and actaully encouraged the customers to play with it a bit. He even knew the actual prices and differences between the units. I am shopping for a new gadget this Christmas but based on my experience in the one electronic store in my area I would have to say that if I go with an ipad I will buy it from the store but if I decide on a dedicated reader I will buy it off the internet.
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Old 11-21-2010, 10:41 AM   #8
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I figure the trade-off is that the big box stores often have liberal return policies.
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Old 11-21-2010, 10:47 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artemisblossom View Post
Yesterday I was in my local future shop and decided to check out the sony ereaders and apple ipads. ... I am shopping for a new gadget this Christmas but based on my experience in the one electronic store in my area I would have to say that if I go with an ipad I will buy it from the store but if I decide on a dedicated reader I will buy it off the internet.
I don't want to pick on Future Shop, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Frys, etc etc since this is an industry-wide problem that is fixable -- walk into an Apple Store and, to a lesser extent, a Sony Style store -- and you'll see how it can be done. As you point out, even within a Future Shop, you can get Apple-style service ... but only in the Apple floorspace selling Apple products.

Here's a stat for you: Apple stores have higher per square foot sales than Tiffany's. They have more staff per customer than any retail operation I know of ... and the stores are packed all the time with customers poking, prodding and buying. You'd think some bright bulb in the other electronic retail space might wander over to an Apple store one day and say .. "we could do that". Alas, it hasn't happened yet.
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Old 11-21-2010, 10:50 AM   #10
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This is why Amazon is such a 'no brainer'

You buy the product, and you have 30 days to decide if you like it, if it works for you.

You can download books, (free if you choose) read it in many different settings, become comfortable with it.

Questions about it? There is a 'call me' feature that allows them to call you back almost immediately and you get answers from knowledgeable people....not part time sales clerks.

You don't like it? Send it back.....in the US just pay return shipping. No restocking fee, 'open box' problems.
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Old 11-21-2010, 10:55 AM   #11
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In Canada, most of the Chapters stores have Kobos on open, hands-on display. And the Sony stores have Sony readers, usually working models. I haven't checked out Future Shop or Best Buy recently. Of course, no place to look at or buy a Nook of any kind. Kindle does give you a 30 day trial.

It's not quite as bad as SLJ paints it, at least in Canada.
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Old 11-21-2010, 11:15 AM   #12
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I agree with you about Kobos sold in Chapters/Indigo stores. They are on display, they are working models, and the staff (when you can find one), know the basics. And you can return them if they are defective or simply unloved within 30 days.

What's missing is the ability to compare several devices in the category and that's where the big box electronic or department store fails big time.

I'd expect the Kobo/Chapters sales experience would be true of Nooks in Barnes and Nobles stores. But Kindles in Staples? Not so much ....
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Old 11-21-2010, 11:25 AM   #13
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Two local B&N stores I visited in the past few days did have nicely maintained and working Nook displays.

Best Buy? Not so much. Their displays are rarely organized and even their inventory is FUBAR (I asked for one of two graphite Kindle wifi's showing in stock and 20 minutes later they couldn't find them).
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Old 11-21-2010, 11:55 AM   #14
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This is why Amazon is such a 'no brainer'
I don't consider it a 'no brainer' in terms of reading free library books, which was my main purpose in getting a device.
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Old 11-21-2010, 02:12 PM   #15
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Steven, Borders in Frederick (where I bought a Sony 350 & 650) had them on display where you could try them out. There's a Borders at Milestone Shopping Center in Germantown. I had done lots of research and had a good idea what I wanted. So I just wanted to see if all the new features were as good as advertised. I was pleasantly surprised that they were.
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