Friday, July 15, 2011

EReaders & the Future

I saw a column on ZDNEWS (which has since scrolled off) predicting that ebook readers (ereaders) may be available this year for Christmas but they will be gone by next year, displaced by tablets. I don't think so.

Tablets have a lot to offer readers. They have a larger, back-lit, color screen and they are not tied to any particular seller. I have read several books on an Android tablet.

But, tablets also have significant drawbacks. They are heavy, they don't work well in bright light, and, most important, they have limited battery life. After using my tablet for several hours to keep up on email and Facebook and for light browsing, by the end of the evening I had to make a choice - do some reading or charge my tablet. Even if your tablet gets ten hours of life, that will not last two evenings.

I suppose that I could use it with the charger plugged in. Or I could leave it plugged in overnight. I don't do that because I worry about shortening battery life by overcharging it. My phone loses some of its charge if it is plugged in too long so I expect my tablet to do that also.

So, neither device has a clear advantage over the other. Instead there are a series of trade-offs.

What really made me decide on getting an ereader was an upcoming vacation. We will have limited access to power and I expect to be reading outside part of the time. Those are conditions that really favor an ereader.

Since getting one I find that I appreciate the weight difference a lot. I like the look of the page on the tablet but the ease of handling is a bigger factor than I expected.

Another factor is price. Just a year and a half ago ereaders cost a few hundred dollars. Now you can get a Kindle, Nook or Kobo for less than $150. That's not quite an impulse purchase but it is cheap enough that you do not have to choose between a tablet and an ereader. You can get both.

And that is the biggest reason why dedicated devices will continue. It is the same reason that people are still buying iPods. They are cheap and convenient enough to justify on their own.

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