Mike Elgan, the veteran technology journalist, mused last week in a Computerworld article that eBook readers would make lousy gifts. I don't necessarily agree with all of Elgan's points, but it got me thinking about how useful a one-trick device is for users. If you think about it, we began to solve the problem of carrying multiple devices with the iPhone. Suddenly we didn't need a camera, a phone and a notebook computer with internet access because we had it all in a single device (and we have access to all those Apps).
But reading a book is a unique experience. Trying to transfer that experience to a cell phone screen takes a bit of a leap. Sure, you can do it, but it's not the most comfortable reading experience in the world. Enter the eBook Reader, a device designed for the needs of the reader, but it begs the question: Do we really want a separate device even if it suits our needs?
The Apple Tablet
Elgan thinks the long-rumored Apple Tablet will blow the eBook Reader and the Netbook market out of the water and he could be right. But earlier this year, Forrester conducted a consumer survey and asked users how much they would be willing to pay to buy an eBook Reader. The vast majority of people said the price needed to drop below $100 in order for the eBook Reader to find mass consumer appeal.
I've written the only way that's going to happen is if the eBook Reader makers, especially the ones whose primary business is selling books like Barnes & Noble and Amazon, discount the Reader in exchange for a commitment to buy X number of books over a 2 year period, much like the cell carriers discount the phones in exchange for a 2 year contract. So far they haven't done this, but bringing in an Apple Tablet, which is likely to be much more expensive than any of the reader devices currently on the market seems counter to the Forrester survey data.
More Than One Trick
What the Apple Tablet would bring to the table, however, would be a portable multi-function device that would do much more than just provide a way to read eBooks. Keep in mind we've been hearing about an Apple Tablet for a long, long time and we still haven't seen one. Seems it would have made sense if one is in the works to make it available for the holiday shopping season. But let's suppose Apple comes through with one in the first quarter next year. It will also be a fully operating computer with internet access and everything that goes with that.
But a tablet would still lack the portability of an iPhone, creating a middle of the road of the device that is light-weight yet doesn't fit in your pocket. My feeling is that we are in a technological gray period where a device like the Tablet, if the price is semi-reasonable could provide a bridge to what comes next: flexible screen technology. Some time in the next five years, I'm predicting we will likely do away with the need for multiple devices because the screen we use will expand or contract depending on the task. If this technology comes to pass, then we can create the device we need from a single screen.
The Apple Tablet could be a market changer just like the iPhone was, but it still could be a stop-gap measure on the way to whatever comes next. Whatever happens, unless eBook Readers drop in price fast, they may go the way of the "car phone" because a one-function device is going to be a tough sell.
Related Article:Are eBook Readers Moving Beyond Books?
is a Tablets and Mobile Devices news story by Techwriter10 that has 4 replies, was last updated 3 years ago and has been tagged with the keywords: apple, ebooks, kindle, magazines, time-inc.
Trust me when I say no one is more excited about the coming tablets than I am but ebook readers are not going anywhere and here's why:
1. Ebook readers will soon average in the $200-$250 range about 1/4 the price of what tablets are about to price at.
2. Tablets will not use e-ink technology and reading books on a backlit device is not the same .. at all.
3. Millions of people want a simple device to read books on and are not interested in the complexities of a life managing device such as a tablet.
I think that both reader and apple tablet will parallel exit. It is similar to the case of desktop and laptop. People may hold both reader and mobile (iPhone) to read ebooks. They use the comfortable device to read at different timing and different occasion.
Quote: "If you think about it, we began to solve the problem of carrying multiple devices with the iPhone."
Not really. If you know about it, you realize that the convergence of devices started with Handspring and Palm in the 1990s.
Let's give the iPhone the credit that it is due: It is an amazingly user-friendly, hand-held computer. It is not a powerful computer, and is only a decent phone. It is not responsible for the convergence factor.
I have to disagree with both of you. It's a full fledged computer any way you slice it. Palm certainly got the ball rolling, but it couldn't do everything the iPhone can. The Apps give me the possibility to just about everything I want from a portable computer. I don't know why you would say it sucks as a phone. It's perfectly fine as a phone and actually from a voice quality standpoint, is better than any phone I've ever owned. I very rarely have dropped calls, the sound is great and the speaker is easy to use. It's simple to mute and it's simple to set up an address book entry or a conference call. iPhone is solely responsible for the touch screen as we know it and so far is still one of the best around (at least based on the phones I've tried).
I'd like to see the miBook (www.mibook.com) evolve into something with better resolution, WLAN access, and better page-flipping interface.
As it is, it's got a few of the right things going for it. It's a marginal reader. The idea of the multimedia aspects of it's "book" is a good one - it could be executed better starting with a better display. It does allow for a few extra functions in that it's a digital photo frame and can play music and videos. I think what killed it was the price of the content and the lack of content.
I can envision this device sitting on a side table, churning through your favourite pictures. Then, when the mood strikes, you grab it and start reading a book stored in it. WLAN access would allow for book downloads and basic web surfing. Figure out a good text entry method and surfing could ramp up a bit more.
I grabbed one at a clearance sale for about $30 and 2 bucks per title. The multi funcationality as a "reader" and photo frame had always appealed to me - even at the $180 MSRP (which was comparable at the time with an 8" photo frame). When I saw it on sale, I just grabbed it and all of the titles on the shelf.
It's lost its novelty and never really worked well as a sit down and reaad a book style of reader, but I can see the potential. A "version 2 or 3" of this thing could be a perfect mix of "just enough."