Where are dedicated eReaders headed?

For a long time I was skeptical of the whole eReader phenomenon. I like my books. I like flipping through the pages quickly, taking one book at a time to the couch, to bed, to the bath, to the airport. Bent pages and ratty covers aren’t pretty to look at, but they still leave the book usable and lendable. Well, recently my wife got a Nook, and she is just glued to that thing. She is a voracious reader and has just been reading book after book (either for free or for purchase) on that thing day and night. Even though there are some refinements that could come to the Nook’s interface, she still loves that thing. The good thing is that Barnes & Noble actually seems committed to improving the Nook. It’s received four updates since its launch back in December, and every update has improved it considerably (usually the performance in terms of turning pages, but also some other features).

The other day, I had the opportunity to read a book on her Nook, and it was quite a pleasurable experience. It was a lot better than I thought it would be. I know she prefers clicking the hard button on the side to turn pages. I found I liked turning pages by lightly flicking to the right or left on the touchscreen (after it has dimmed—before it dims, a touch will select a menu item). Even though the Kindle gets a lot more press, the Nook looks a lot better (my wife had some random person on the bus ask her if the Nook was an Apple product) and it supports the ePub format.

What will happen with dedicated eReaders, though? My guess is, unfortunately, they will remain a relatively niche product. I don’t think there is a huge percentage of the populace who reads a novel a day. I think most people read only a little bit at a time. So the eye strain issue of a backlit screen is moot. I don’t agree with people who say “Lots of people stare at backlit screens at work all the time and don’t have eye strain.” I actually know quite a lot of people who do have eye strain from staring at laptop screens. In any case, a lot of laptop users at work are using their laptops to do various small tasks instead of just staring at it reading one long manuscript. And, really, that is how most people will be reading eBooks—a few pages at a time on an iPhone, an Android phone, or an iPad or other touchscreen tablet.

The bright colors and touchscreen appeal will definitely beat out the pragmatic eInk technology on dedicated eReaders… at least for most people. I think my wife can read sometimes two or three novels a day. For her, eInk makes a lot of sense. I don’t read nearly as much as she does, but I think eInk may make sense for me, too.

Tell you what, though—if they can make an eInk screen that is in full color and touchscreen enabled, that would kick some serious electronic book butt.


  1. Interesting. And congratulations with the new design – I like it! (although there seems to be a problem about this text box for comments: it is too long and interferes with the tags in the right site.

    I am probably going to buy an iPad (when it is released in Denmark), because I read a lot of different stuff on the Internet and I use Read It Later and Google Reader a lot. They are not spectacular long, but I have so many of them that I don’t have the time to read it on my computer. I think if I got an iPad I would be more willing to sit on a chair or in the coach reading a piece or two in a day.

    I know that Kindle, Nook and other e-ink devices are better for your eyes, but the iPad seems superior when it comes to online stuff and things like that. And I have never owned any product from Apple, so this will be my first experience with their white machines :)

  2. Full color touchscreens are on the way. Check out Pixel Qi screens, which will be coming soon. They’re dual mode with a standard LCD screen but also a reflective screen for using under good light. I’m keeping an eye on the Notion Ink Adam, it looks amazing and will be released in a few months.

  3. Pixel Qi has a distinct advantage over competing technologies for displays: It can be manufactured using the same facilities and the same equipment as current LCD screens. That’s a powerful economic incentive, given that there is such a huge base for LCD screens already in existence.

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