Friday, 2 November 2012

Are e-readers dying?

With the launch of the iPad mini and various smaller format Android tablets there seems to be a growing belief out there that e-readers - by which most people mean dedicated single purpose reading devices such as the standard kindle - are transitional devices - ie devices once poplar but destined to fall by the wayside, in much the same way that the once universal iPod has been supplanted by the iPhone as a music player.

Rather than concentrate on the e-reader and try and list its advantages and disadvantages over a tablet let's look at its predecessor - the book.

Books are on the whole light, have a compact form factor, are superbly portable, do not require an external powersource, and can be accessed anywhere there is an external lightsource.

A kindle, or indeed any e-ink based reader comes close to this usability in that they are all compact, light, portable and do not require an external powersource very often - a month between charges is normal. And like a book it can be used anywhere with an external lightsource.

And when I look at people reading on the bus, those using reading devices other than their phones are overwhelmingly using e-readers.

Compared with a book - or a dedicated e-reader -tablets are on the whole inconviently heavy. Find for resting on one's knees in be but just a tad too heavy for prolonged use on public transport. Some tablets have a rubber grippy back to make holding it one handed an easier proposition but most do not.

Tablets also have a shorter battery life - no so short as to make them unusable on a commute, but enough to mean that you need to think about charging - unlike a kindle you can't just whip it out and have a reasonable expectation of having more than enough battery for an hour or so's reading.

So, I have no doubt that classic e-readers will lose ground to tablets, especially small form factor devices. After all not everyone is an obsessional reader, and why buy two devices when one will do most of the time.

However there will be a core of users, hard core readers, librarything members, travellers, who will continue to prefer the e-ink device for its usability as a device for linear reading ...

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