E-Readers are Dead. Long Love E-Reading!

By  |  Monday, August 16, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Over at Ars Technica, Jon Stokes is noting that the explosion of new e-readers that seemed to be coming this year has turned out to be more of a whimper than a bang. Plastic Logic’s Que ProReader is dead, Hearst’s Skiff reader shows no signs of life, Samsung’s E-Ink reader is apparently skipping the US market, and none of the umpteen readers from lesser-known companies has become a breakout hit.

Still in the game: Amazon’s Kindle (the e-reader that’s synonymous with e-readers), Barnes & Noble’s Nook (which B&N is about to double down on), and Sony’s Reader (the first modern e-reader). Oh, and there’s Kobo, the Canadian e-reader backed by Borders. I don’t see any of these going away anytime soon–actually, as Slate’s Farhad Manjoo points out, the likely scenario is that they’ll get even cheaper and sell even better.

Amazon and B&N, at least, might be willing to sell e-readers at very little profit or at a loss if they can make money on e-books. That’s a tough proposition to compete with if you’re a hardware company rather than a behemoth of a bookseller. ¬†Moreover, both companies have been smart about putting free e-reading software on as many devices as possible–iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, PC, and Mac. They’re e-reading companies, not e-reader companies.

(The more hardware-centric Sony hasn’t gone this route yet, except for Windows and Mac apps; I wonder if it’s at least considering making Reader software that runs on other manufacturers’ mobile gizmos?)

Plastic Logic and Skiff both set out to make much more powerful readers than the Kindle, which turned out to be a fatally flawed strategy: An e-reader that’s much fancier and pricier than a Kindle starts to look like an unsatisfactory iPad competitor. Which is presumably why most hardware makers have moved on and are now focusing on building iPadversaries.

I usually don’t like confident predictions that a particular market is all sewn up by a particular company. There are just too many examples of game-changing gadgets that shook everything up, such as the iPod and the Wii. But it’s hard to see how anybody who isn’t currently making devices focused solely on reading is going to have a huge impact–or why anyone would try.

 
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10 Comments For This Post

  1. Eric S Says:

    Considering how little the American public reads, and the fact that these trends are not purely American, I can see how an E-Reader (or even e-reader software) could not be a huge market. The iPad and tablet computing isn't going to kill e-reader hardware

  2. Bill Says:

    Why have a "EREADER" at all I'd much rather read on my Droid. I don't want to carry more than 1 device.. I have both Kindle and Nook readers installed and buy from whomever has the lower price or special.

  3. Neil Thompson Says:

    As a Sony reader owner I was asked to complete an online survey recently in which one of the questions was about whether I wanted a mobile app to sync and read my ebooks. So on the basis of that I would say that Sony are certainly considering mobile apps.

  4. Dan Says:

    "Long love" should say "Long live".

  5. pond Says:

    I must say, I've always had a weakness for tablet computers. But the recent microscopic pix of iPad and Kindle eInk screens at high magnification have me seriously wanting a KindleDX (that one for its ability to show PDF files without too much zooming/scrolling).

    For sheer reading, that screen will be hard to beat; but multifarious devices usually win (think the standalone 'wordprocessor' of the 1980s vs the PC).

    Maybe Mirasol from Qualcomm will be our savior? (If they can figure out how to manufacture the stuff, that is.)

  6. Deborah McNamara Says:

    I have bought 4 ereaders. I have 3 Sony's and the nook. I like Sony best. I just bought the daily edition. I have 400 ebooks and I read all the time. I hope you are wrong about people in the US not reading. I have about 6 writers that I read all of there books.
    I like them because they cut down on paper use. You are wrong.

  7. coffee166 Says:

    I ordered the new Kindle with WiFi as I go through books like crazy. The fact that I can order and download a new book in seconds is very appealing to me as is the price of the ebooks. No more having to go to Borders and spending the minimum of 20.00 for two paperbacks at each visit. The library is an alternative but it seldom has anything current. I'm hoping the readers will be around for a while.

  8. joe Says:

    go kobo go

  9. Cursos socorrismo Says:

    I have bought 4 ereaders. I have 3 Sony's and the nook. I like Sony best. I just bought the daily edition. I have 400 ebooks and I read all the time. I hope you are wrong about people in the US not reading.
    Cursos socorrismo

  10. gailweaveri792 Says:

    I hope you are wrong about people in the US not reading. I have about 6 writers that I read all of there books. Travel agency

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