Friday, May 13, 2011

The E-Book Reader is Dead!

From Dark Central Station
According to Amy Lee at The Huffington Post, at least.

When I first saw the headline “Tablet Takeover Suggests Ereader’s Demise”, naturally I raised my eyebrows. Given the surge in ebook sales and the sheer dominance of Amazon’s Kindle, I was left scratching my head at how the tablet pc would somehow surpass a growing market for ebook readers given that there’s only one tablet that people really have bought into en masse – Apple’s iPad.

Amy Lee’s article suggests that two things are going to happen: first, more and more tablets will enter the market driving prices down (alright, that’s feasible) and second, “experts predict users will drop ereaders for tablet PCs that offer web-browsing and video capabilities alongside ebook”.

While I don’t argue that most of us like a multi-purpose device, I believe those experts probably don’t read a lot of books. They argue the weakness in Amazon’s Kindle or the Chapter’s/Indigo Kobo is that they are stand alone devices and consumers are far more interested in the electronic version of the Swiss Army knife. But here’s the thing and I suspect most people would probably agree with what I’m about to suggest: reading is a stand-alone act. People read books to get away from email, texting, video games, iTunes, Facebook and Twitter. We read for enjoyment and relaxation and I suspect the last thing anyone who just got to the good bits in a novel wants is for their ereader to suddenly announce they’ve got mail or a little window to pop up with periodic updates from Facebook and Twitter friends.

There’s another issue, and it’s an important one: the screen. You see, tablet PC’s have a lit screen in high resolution with a glossy surface – ereaders use e-ink technology and closely resemble the pages in a book: a flat grayish background and a surface that doesn’t reflect the light from a lamp or any other light source. Seriously, I don’t know about you, but as an author, my brain feels like its ready to melt if I am at the computer too long. The brightness from the screen tends to burn a hole right into the middle of my brain and I will get monster headaches if I am am staring at a sharp white background for too long.

I could be wrong of course – (I said that new Coke was vastly superior to old Coke and boy did I botch that one) God knows the pace of change in gadgetry is mind-numbing, but I think reading is a solitary pursuit that most of us enjoy so that we can escape the jillion or so distractions we experience each day. It’s a contemplative pursuit and for me at least, when I’m reading, I tend to be completely immersed in a book. I don’t get up to check email. If I get up at all, it might be to get a cup of tea or to go to the bathroom.

So, no, I don’t think tablet PC’s will wipe our the ebook reader. If anything, I suspect we’re going to see improvements in e-ink technology and faster downloads, but that’s pretty much it. Ebook readers are mainstream now. I’m seeing commercials for the Kindle on prime time television and really, when was the last time ANYONE saw advertising for anything relating to a book during commercial breaks?

So, while there are some who decry the rise of the ebook reader and who believe it is killing traditional publishing (it is most certainly having a huge impact) the fact is that ereaders are here to stay and they are now officially affordable to the average consumer. How they shape our reading habits and the book market in the years ahead remains to be seen, but for this book lover in the middle of the Canadian prairie, when I stick my nose in a book, I want to absorb every single word and drift off to sleep secure in the knowledge that my Facebook friends can wait until tomorrow for updates from yours truly.

Another good Ebook article:  How do you Read?

-Life is too Short to Read a Bad Book-

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