e-Book Readers, are they the future?

On Ollie Bray’s blog a comment was made on Ollie’s post about e-Books.

Neil commenting on the blog said:

I don’t think e-book readers will cut it. They will please a few – gadgeteers and the followers of Oprah (or would that be Jonathan Ross over here?) – but I think they will only be a niche product. After all, you can already read e-books on many phones, netbooks and PCs, so why would you want a specialist device?

Which would you rather spend on – a class set of Kindles (at £175 each) or a set of iPods touches (@£149)? No-brainer really. ANd you are never going to get a head to spend that kind of money twice.

I do agree that in terms of functionality that the iPod touch (currently) is superior to the Kindle, but you do need to ask what functionality are you looking for when purchasing a device.

I am going to disagree with  Neil about the e-Book, personally I think they are going to be one of the next big technologies.

Many negative things were said about early mp3 players and notably the iPod. If you go back to 2001 the following comments were made which are not exactly positive about Apple’s music player.

The iPod does cost considerably more than the nearest competitor with a portable hard drive…

…analyst Tim Deal dinged the $399 price as “a little high.”

“I question the company’s ability to sell into a tight consumer market right now at the iPod’s current price.”

“Apple lacks the richness of Sony’s product offering. And introducing new consumer products right now is risky, especially if they cannot be priced attractively,”

Stephen Baker said that the iPod will likely stand out for its large storage capacity but predicted that the device may have trouble digging out a niche in the market.

The iPod has “good features, but this is a pretty competitive category,” Baker said. “The question is whether people want that robust of a feature set with that high of a price.”

Look where the iPod is now!

Let’s take Niel’s comment:

After all, you can already read e-books on many phones, netbooks and PCs, so why would you want a specialist device?

If you rewrite this as

After all, you can already listen to mp3s on many phones, netbooks and PCs, so why would you want a specialist device?

That’s what many people said about the iPod and the early mp3 players.

e-Book readers are supplementary to netbooks, iPhones, iPods and PCs, not replacements.

They also have one big advantage over those devices for e-Books and that is battery life.

I have to charge my iPhone on a daily basis, I charge my e-Book reader once a week.

For me the Kindle and Sony Reader are generation one devices, and as the technology matures and changes I expect to see better and smarter products.

The rumours are that Apple and Microsoft will both release an e-Book Reader type product in the next twelve months. These devices will certainly raise the profile of e-Books and the market for devices to read them.

4 thoughts on “e-Book Readers, are they the future?”

  1. I don’t think an iPod touch vs kindle competition is relevant. OLPC laptops and EEE’s are at a similar price point and have far more functionality.

    The argument is the battery life and life of product. E-Ink has a place, we just haven’t quote found it yet. For me it’s a room full of interactive displays that are based on e-ink. Not portable, hand held devices unless they can introduce better solar power to the devices.

  2. My iPod touch is the first device I’ve had which has made e-book reading practical for me. Agreed, the screen is a bit small and can require some squinting, but the clarity is easily good enough for my eyes and the interface makes one-handed operation even easier than real books.

    Reading on a phone screen is just too squinty, and I seem to be able to concentrate much better reading something I hold in my hand rather than on a fixed laptop screen.

    I totally agree with the MP3 player analogy, and it feels like we’re very close to the magic point where the technology (c.f. iPod) and support structures (c.f. iTunes store) are good enough to take e-readers mainstream.

    An e-reader rugged enough to survive a two-week camping holiday without breaking or needing a recharge can’t be far away!

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