iPad vs e-book readers: price matters
Do you want cheap as chips — or Apple?
Analysis Apple would have been daft not to embrace e-books when planning the iPad, but will its new offering hinder the likes of the Kindle?
If your definition of an e-book reader is a tablet equipped with a monochrome E Ink screen, then the answer is likely to be in the affirmative. E Ink screens have just one advantage over the iPad’s display: power conservation.
It’s also said by some users that they’re easier to read for long periods of time than LCDs, and will almost certainly be easier to read outdoors in bright lighting. No doubt, Apple hopes its use of an IPS LCD in the iPad will improve its chosen display technology’s reputation here.
E Ink only requires power when it changes, but that change is slow and subject to a ‘flash’ of black that some users dislike. Even greyscale screens also look old compared to colour ones. We used to have monochrome screens on phones, but on one has ever seriously suggested since the advent of colour that we go back.
Put an Amazon Kindle, iRiver Story or Sony Reader alongside an iPad and, on screen alone, the first three will have a tough time winning over buyers. Add in the fact that the iPad has Wi-Fi, an web browser, email software, mapping and full media playback in addition to e-book reading, and you have to wonder why anyone would bother with e-book only devices again.
Cost is one reason. Here in the UK, a good e-book reader will cost you around £250. That's around £100 less expensive than the iPad in its most basic, 16GB, no 3G form. And manufacturers have scope to lower prices further.
A device that has a tiny amount of storage — you add your own with after-market memory cards — just enough CPU power to drive the minimal UI and maybe maintain MP3 playback — is considerably less expensive to make than the iPad. Apple will have higher manufacturing volumes, which in turn allows it to keep the price down to netbook level, but not to the kind of prices e-book readers can reach.
We've long hoped for a £100 e-book reader, and we’re sure that’s possible. Certainly, Sony, Amazon, iRiver, Cooler and co. could and probably will cut prices to under £200 once the iPad ships and then down to £150 if they start to panic.
Get the price to £100 and it hits that point at which punters will happily risk the device quickly becoming obsolete. And, at that price, if it gets broken, lost or stolen on holiday, who cares? iPad owners, on the other hand, will be more wary of risking their pricey purchase.
But it’s a short-term measure. The inevitable progress of technology means the successors to today’s e-book readers will accrete new features, including e-mail access, web browsing and the wireless linkage needed to make these apps work, plus broader media support and, not too far down the line, colour screens.
Taiwanese hardware makers like Asus and Acer are already working on colour tablets, and you can bet that Computex, Taiwan’s IT and CE vendor showcase, will have hundreds of iPad clones on show from no-name and big-name suppliers alike. Computex takes place in June, by which time the iPad will have been on sale for a little over two months and fresh, iPad-specific apps will have begun to appear.
And that’s the iPad’s hidden strength: the ability to adapt to any given user’s specific needs through applications. Even when all e-book readers look like the iPad — by which time we probably won’t be calling them ‘e-book readers’ any longer — the Apple will be able to deliver a broader experience that few, if any, rivals will be able to match.
The sound you can hear is Google bosses rubbing their hands in anticipation of all those new, suddenly very desperate Android licensees... ®
Is this article a joke ?
Ereaders have only one advantage, power conservation ? I'm sorry but that's just a consequence of their main advantage, the non-light emitting e-ink, which you then proceed to dismiss.
I read books, lots of them. I've read them on desktop pc monitors, laptops, netbooks, mids, phones, etc, and trying to do any sort of heavy reading on any of them is hopeless. The raison d'etre of ebook is e-ink, thus lack of eye strain, end of. What a pathetic article.
I have a Touch and good eyesight
This iPad thing appealed to me until I found out that Apple is in full control of what I put on it (until the jailbreak). That sucks. Blows, even.
This, though, is the beginning of always-connected, intelligent delivery products. Maybe even the keyboard.
But to consider moving from an iPod Touch to this Pad thing - nah. I can get a proper little computer for the same price and that does what I want.
Apple has lost the plot and started believing their own BS, IMO
Only one advantage?
I repeatedly see articles that play down the difference between a reflective vs emissive display. I think it's always by people who don't read books. Maybe LCD is OK for reading a few web/magazine articles but when you want to settle down with a book for a few hours your only real option is paper or eInk.
>You can paint it anyway you like, but books on electronic devices will never be a large market
>until those devices are as practical as a bog standard dead tree book.
My eReader is fairly practical. If you can use an MP3 player, you can use an eReader. Not all that challenging. Hurdles for mass uptake right now is price - both of the hardware and the books. That is changing rapidly, and will continue to.
When I go away I often take ten or twelve books with me. In a device, protectively jacketed in a nice leather case, that's the size of a slim hardback. I could fit my entire book collection, physical and electronic, on my reader and the size/weight stays the same. I read quite fast, so for a fortnight's holiday, I'm going to need an awful lot of squashed tree, both in volume and in weight. Who's more practical now?
>I can picture it now, I want to settle down in bed and read for a few hours. I grab my iPad or
>Kindle or whatever, turn it on, only to find there's no battery power left. Damn, where did I put
> that charger? Now I need to find the charger and plug the damn thing into a socket.
I keep my charger by my bed. When my book is on my nightstand, it's on charge. That means it's ready to go.
Worrying about whether stuff is charged or not is a pretty poor argument. Substitute the word mp3 player/laptop/phone into anything you've said and then wonder if that's why none of those things are popular. Oh wait.
>I'm sitting on the train with a three hour journey ahead of me - damn, but I forgot to charge the
>bloody eBook reader - tum te tum...
Same same. I forgot to charge my phone/ipod/laptop/toothbrush/etc. People living in the 21st century are fairly good at remembering to charge stuff. I've had an iRex eReader (which has relatively crappy battery life) for over three years now. Never have I not been able to read 'cos of battery flatness.
> 20 years down the line, several competing formats later and your book collection is a either a
> mess, or you've spent time, effort and probably money converting between formats.
I have what's called a "macro" in OpenOffice. I put text in, sometimes after spending several seconds ripping DRM from my purchase, then it comes out as a PDF formatted for my iLiad. If/when I buy a new reader, I'll make a new macro. The source text is always saved in a clear, open format. There are itunes-a-like apps that can do the same thing as my scripts/macros, for the less technologically inclined user.
Once you've started reading in 10pt Helvetica, you wonder why you'd ever want to read anything else. Glorious.
At this point, after no more than a few minutes of clicking here and there - no more effort than ripping a CD to mp3, and less time - I'm reading my book, warm and comfy on the sofa/in bed/whatever. You're still waiting for the postman to deliver your Amazon order, or you're queuing up in a bookshop.
I'd suggest it's possibly more time/effort/money to get a physical book. By quite some margin.
>I sincerely hope that eBooks are *never* more than just a novelty, a fad - life without libraries, >book shops, sharing books with friends, turning a physical page, the smell of ink and paper...
Libraries are about a lot more than just books. Common fallacy held by people who don't go to them any more. The libraries near me are working out their electronic lending strategy as we speak - it's likely users will be able to borrow, legally, through a web browser. And won't that be lovely for those who have mobility issues. Or people who have visual impairments and can't get their favourite books in Large Print. To make anything Large on an eReader is just a few clicks of the "Font size+" button. Libraries are about access to information in all it's forms, not just books. My library has music cds, dvds/blurays, internet access (and yes, there are still lots of people who can't afford their own, even in a city like mine which has free wifi), seminars, video games, kids activity events, reading clubs, etc. etc.
I share ebooks with friends. How cold and heartless of me. Same as people still share mp3s with friends. Format is not the point here, content is.
On the issue of format, you may have noticed in your bookshops that high-quality hardbacks are coming back. Nice paper, boxes, illustrated pages - the book industry is doing what the music industry is doing - mp3s are replacing cheap CDs, but for those who like physical formats, the luxury versions (eg, heavyweight gatefold vinyl etc) are coming back. Ebooks will mostly replace paperbacks. But hardbacks will still exist. And they'll be *better*
It's all about eye strain and battery life.
I can look at the electronic ink screen of my Sony Pocket Reader (£140 from WH Smith) for hour after hour with perfect comfort and because it draws no power when its not "turning" pages I can get through between 10 and 15 books on a charge. Ebook readers are designed to do one job and do it well, jack-of-all-trades devices like the iPad are by definition compromises.