12 January 2010

E-book readers

The e-book reader market seems set to explode, at least from the supplier side. Whether the plethora of new devices will a) make it to market and b) sell enough to stay in business, is another matter. There's a report of new devices on display at CES this year on the ZD Net site, with prices ranging from $300 to $800 and more. Is anyone really going to spend $800 to read the daily newspaper? After all, if you are really pushed, you can probably pull it out of a trash can at the end of the day and read it for free :-) AND you can then shred it and use it as kitty litter!

A number of the readers are from new suppliers and I suspect that these will be the first to disappear: Amazon and Sony have been first to market (at least first successfully) and are likely to dominate, since they already have cash flow from their devices and will continue to develop, whereas a newcomer is going to find it difficult to establish themselves. Unless, of course, it is the promised Apple tablet...

How big will the market be, I wonder? The obvious user is the traveller, since it is easy to put several hundred books on to a reader and take up very little space in your travel bag, and the public transport commuter might also benefit, if the ambient lighting is good enough. I can see myself using one for these reasons, but not as a replacement for the book in the hand by the fireside or in bed. The younger generation may see things differently , of course: if the iPhone is a permanent extension of your hand and you spend virtually all day using it for one reason or another (including reading e-books), you may be attracted by something about the size of a paperback book, which will be easier to read and the lending of e-books from academic libraries is becoming a pretty standard service, so... time will tell.

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