Are e-readers doomed? Yes, they are

There's nowhere for the e-reader to evolve to ... except into a tablet.

Over on The Loop, Matt Alexander claims that e-readers like the Kindle and Nook are essentially doomed to being niche devices because there's really nowhere for the technology to evolve. I agree.

Here's the key paragraph:

The concept of electronic paper, to me, sounds dazzlingly futuristic, but here I am calling it doomed. The e-reader’s purpose is, ostensibly, to serve as a stopgap measure until both e-ink itself and LCDs evolve to the point of intersection — and that does not seem too terribly far off. Tablets are losing weight with each iteration, prices are lowering, battery lives are lengthening, and soon, everything that makes e-readers wonderful products will be assimilated into other pieces of technology.


Alexander sums up why e-readers are doomed. Not only is there a strong tendency for stand alone gadgets (e-readers, GPS receivers, MP3 players, etc) to converge into single devices, but there's really nowhere for e-readers too go in the long run. Think about it:

  • Storage capacity isn't really a big issue, especially with cloud storage.
  • Battery life isn't an issue (unless there's some big shift in battery technology).
  • Screen size is ideal as it is at around 7-inch, so there's no room for it to grow of shrink.
  • There's not going to be an 'HD' e-reader.

The only thing left for e-readers to do is to evolve into tablets. Once we get a screen that can handle print as well as it can handle video, then e-readers will really only sell on the basis of price (they'll be cheaper than tablets).

Another thing that I see driving his evolution of the e-reader is that books as we know them will also evolve. Sure, the printed word will never die, but ebooks offer scope for more than just words - sound, video, animation, live web links, over the air updates - and these features require not an e-reader, but a full-blown tablet.

The e-reader as we know it today is the first step. It's little more than a digital paperback book. Just as books have evolved, the next step is for the content to evolve. And that evolved content will be far more suited to a tablet than it will be to the e-reader as we know it today.

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


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