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Do We Really Need eReaders?

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What's Next for the eReader Market?

Two years ago, Amazon was on top of the world. Their Kindle device had just released a second version and was sweeping the nation’s media circuit with stories about glare free reading, epic battery life, and the ability to carry thousands of books.

When the iPad was announced, one of the most discussed features was iBooks and the ability to read eBooks on a device that was, as of yet, not well defined to the average consumer. Today, the intro-level tablet PC market that Apple blew open is growing at rapid speed, overshadowing the Kindle and all of its eReader brethren together in 2010.

So, it begs the question – does anyone need an eReader in the age of multi-tasking, high power devices that cost as little as $500. It definitely helped when Amazon lowered the price of its 7” Kindle to only $139, but I can’t help but wonder if anyone who’s ever held an iPad or Xoom furrows their brow a little when they pick up a Kindle.

Technically speaking, it’s a better device for pure reading – more battery life, better performance outdoors, and free 3G, plus a much lighter chassis that makes it easier to hold it with one hand on a train or bus.

But, the problem to me is this – consumers are being groomed to expect their devices to a LOT of things, even the low cost ones. With Android and iOS phones costing less than $100 on contract and tablet computers providing a huge list of features to draw from, an eReader – even at $139 – seems overpriced.

Barnes and Noble is hinting at plans to make their Nook Color – the second generation of their popular eReader – run Android Apps. The device can already boot up earlier editions of Android with limited support, but if the device, either in its current iteration or in a new update later this year, can take on the tablet market directly – it will mark a good middle-ground for users who want a dedicated eReader…that isn’t 100% dedicated to reading.

This is the age we live in – our devices need to be as versatile and varied as we are and while technically speaking, eReaders are better for actually reading, most people would rather carry one device that can do all of their mobile entertainment tasks, plus possibly some work.

What do you think? Can the eReader market flourish in its current incarnation or do Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Sony need to rethink their approach to the technology? Are they making a mistake by integrating Android or will it open up new possibilities for eReaders and tablets alike?

 

Hugo Ortega is a tablet PC geek, a veteran of over 10yrs Tablet experience. Utilised globally as a public speaker by organisations such as Microsoft, CeBIT, Hannover Fairs, and many more Ortega is also an author, father of three and passionate facilitator. Always willing to assist he is a passionate advocate willing to assist.

29 Comments

  1. lexuk

    04/11/2011 at 2:13 pm

    I have a sony ereader, and liked it so much I upgraded to the new version – only because the pages turned a bit quicker and the screen was a bit clearer. It takes all kinds of formats, from standard ebooks to word to text. On the other hand, I still don’t see the point of an ipad – I’d never use it. If the ipad was the only ereader around, then I’d still be reading my ebooks on my PDA. The ipad is a pretty poor ereader – low battery life, bright screen leading to tired eyes, very hard to read outside in the sun, etc.

    You’re effectively asking if people need books when there are shiny gadgets out there. My ereader is just another book to me. The ipad is a shiny gadget (one I don’t want, but I know lots of people do). The ipad will never be a book, but my ereader is just that.

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/13/2011 at 3:13 am

      Hi Lexuk,

      I don’t think I was asking if books are needed, or not, but I think your point is still very valid. eReaders are so much better than a Tablet for what they offer, but I’m concerned this will be diluted and maybe even lost, with the new surge of tablets. Like the better convection oven was lost in favour of microwave ovens due to marketability. LOL! Thanks for the comment!

  2. jfwhite

    04/11/2011 at 2:40 pm

    I have both an iPad2 and a Kindle 3, both in constant use. I use the iPad for everything from reading design mags and news to watching feature films. But I have to admit I love the Kindle and use it for most of my ‘serious’ reading. The Kindle 3 form factor is perfect for me, light, thin and great screen for bw reading. It is light enough to read while exercising on a recumbent bike. Interesting to see if Kindle eventually offers a color/android version first, or if Apple finally sees sense and does a 6-7 inch iPad with retina screen. I think we are in kind of a ‘between time’ with e-readers.

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/13/2011 at 3:14 am

      Hi Jfwhite,

      I think you’re right. eReaders are possibly buying time. We’ll see what happens. I don’t think Apple with do a 7″ iPad but you never know. The reason I don’t think is that they have so much more to gain from iTunes via the richer iPad2 experience that they may not bother with eReaders at all. Thanks for the great comment!

  3. Frank Maier

    04/11/2011 at 3:24 pm

    Today I bought a Sony eReader PRS-650 which I use next to my HTC Smartphone and Fujitsu Tablet PC.
    Do I need an eReader? Yes, because it’s the only device on which I can read documents and books over a longer time! Do I need a Smartphone? Yes, because it’s my mobile phone which I also use as web browser, .. Do I need a tablet PC? Yes, because it’s my laptop and note taking device.
    Do I need an iPad, XOOM, Galaxy Pad? No, why should I? It does the same my Smartphone does, even less. It does not give me any additional features!
    The iPad is one of the most useless devices I’ve seen. You can’t read on it because of the LCD which is just a pain for your eyes, you can’t surf the web because of a heavily restricted browser and poor speed compared to browsers on Windows like Opera which handle +10 Tabs fine, load you tube in the background, and so on, you can’t take notes on it because it has no pen, you can’t write on it because it has no keyboard, what can you do with it?

    Back to your article: I agree, that future devices must be universal. I hope that future tablets will have a pen, and a color sunlight readable display, either eInk, Mirasol, liquavista or whatever, then I can replace both my tablet and eReader with a universal versatile tablet. But at the moment, reading electronic stuff, an eReader is the only option!

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/13/2011 at 3:16 am

      Hi Frank,

      Like you I think the iPad is a fairly useless device. In all it’s glory it fails to be a device, and is more of a clever portal. I find it interesting that most comments on this post are in favour of eReaders. Surprising (to me) but makes sense. Thanks for the comment mate.

  4. Paul

    04/11/2011 at 3:44 pm

    The iPad is great for many things, but I would not say it is great for MOST things. Reading is best left to a Kindle. And writing is brutal – if I had to write a term paper on my iPad vs. my laptop, I’d probably shoot myself.

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/13/2011 at 3:16 am

      Too true Paul!

  5. GaryG

    04/11/2011 at 3:57 pm

    “Technically speaking, [the kindle] a better device for pure reading – more battery life, better performance outdoors, and free 3G, plus a much lighter chassis that makes it easier to hold it with one hand on a train or bus.”

    Sounds like a perfect design to me. I have no need for an iPad, but I always want a book around, and the more the merrier. The Kindle serves this need brilliantly.

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/13/2011 at 3:17 am

      Nice point of view GaryG. Thanks for sharing mate!

  6. dub

    04/11/2011 at 6:05 pm

    I have both a Kindle and an iPad, they do different jobs. The Kindle gets mostly left by my bed for newspapers in the morning and book reading last thing at night. The iPad is for spontaneous web browsing and keeping the son amused with kid friendly apps. I like having the 2 different devices, as well as being much easier to read, especially with tired eyes, the Kindle does not distract me from that reading, I can not start searching randomly on google or check my facebook updates, all I can do is read, and for that it is perfect.

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/13/2011 at 3:19 am

      I like the comment Dub! Ironically you’ve answered your own short comings (like all of us) by single tasking for the sake of reducing distraction. This is an exceptional example of clever use of computing. GREAT!

  7. JP

    04/11/2011 at 7:45 pm

    We have a Kindle 3 and Nook Color (rooted and running a full Android tablet OS) and they serve two different roles. The Nook is for web browsing, media consumption, reading kids books and magazines. But for “real” reading, the Kindle can’t be beat. The battery lasts forever and it’s so light that it goes everywhere without a thought. But if I could only have one device, I’d pick the (rooted) Nook Color because it’s more versatile and can run the Kindle app (in addition to B&N’s own store), so you have access to all those books as well.

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/13/2011 at 3:21 am

      HI JP,

      This is a good example of convergence of two functions into one, and perhaps a good indication of things to come. I’m surprise how much love people have for eReaders given the convergence you’ve highlighted exists. Food for thought. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Roberto

    04/12/2011 at 3:36 am

    Yes. E-ink vs back lite screen. Foor serious reading it’s no contest for my eyes. E-ink.

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/13/2011 at 3:21 am

      I’ve never tried one Roberto. How do they compare to Kindle?

  9. Anonymous

    04/12/2011 at 12:55 pm

    I guess the question comes down to “Who is WE?”

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/13/2011 at 3:22 am

      ???

  10. S Pugsley

    04/12/2011 at 3:08 pm

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/13/2011 at 3:23 am

      HI S Pugley.

      Seem like I’m not off track then. Even though the post was flooded with eReader love I wonder if the end is near.

  11. Anonymous

    04/12/2011 at 11:41 pm

    The current Kindle has got just about everything right; great library (and constantly growing); fantastic (and functional) built-in dictionaries, and, yes, epic battery life.

    I’m for a device that does a few things exceptionally well, rather than a jack of a whole more trades, which will not, and cannot (by the nature of the beast) match the sheer utility of a dedicated reader.

    I had a Sony for years, but finally bit the bullet and bought the Kindle instead–I have not regretted that decision.

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/13/2011 at 3:24 am

      Hi Anandawolf,

      I’m with you, i.e. I rather a device that does one job well, than many jobs not-so-well. I think eReaders are great and have a future as long as the need for lager companies to swallow small ones doesn’t work its magic with the mainstream consumer. Thanks for the great comment.

  12. Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

    04/13/2011 at 3:25 am

    @ALL:

    Great comments. I’m surprised with all the eReader love but ultimately I feel as though Dub has it right. it’s the same strategy I use!

  13. Nithyanand Rao

    04/13/2011 at 6:43 am

    I’ve an Android tablet and a Kindle. The Kindle is worth every cent (or paisa, since I’m in India). If I had to choose one, it has to be the Kindle, simply because I’ve integrated it into my life so much so that I can’t imagine living without it. Tablets will never replace e-readers, for serious bookworms. The eye-strain is far too much.
    The only thing that can transform this landscape is new technology – such as mirasol, by Qualcomm. It seems to have amazing potential. Unless that sort of display technology becomes mainstream, e-readers will survive.

    • Hugo Ortega @MrMobilePC

      04/14/2011 at 3:36 am

      Hi Nithyanand,

      Thank you for the great comment. Looks as though book worms may have a valid point. It will be interesting to see if book worms win, or Tablets kill what is a great single-tasking device. Time will tell.

  14. Anonymous

    04/14/2011 at 3:28 pm

    One of the great things about being a geek is that there’s never a lack of products to discuss! I too own an iPad 2 and a Kindle 3. There’s no question that I far prefer the Kindle for books, and use it when I don’t want to be distracted by the other apps available to me on my iPad (email, texts, Angry Birds, etc…).
    Both of these devices are evolving. After the Amazon Blaze rumor popped up the other day, I looked into the Mirasol display technology. This type of display is what these devices will be using, going forward.
    It can be read in bright sunlight (perfect for e-readers and cellphones), and appears to have great color and the ability to render videos quite well. Again, this technology is also evolving and improving.
    For now, I’ll be reading on my Kindle, and launching pissed off birds on my iPad.

  15. Pamela

    05/20/2011 at 6:15 pm

    A couple of years ago I would have said that we don’t need e-readers. I’m a lover of books, the old-fashioned kind made out of paper. Unfortunately, these days a lot of books that are published are now only available in eReader format, they’re a little cheaper, and libraries are introducing more books in eReader format as well. I don’t have an IPad and have no intention of purchasing one. I have a laptop (which I leave at home) and a basic cell phone (takes pictures). So it looks as though I’ll be one of many to purchase an eReader in the near future. Which one? That’s hard to say. I’m not one to buy the latest of anything each new year. Talk about throwing money out the window.

    So “Do we Really Need eReaders?” – If you just want it to read books, Yes.

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