What you won't see at CES: Ebook readers

What you won't see at CES: Ebook readers

Summary: While hot in years past, don't expect to see many ebook readers at this year's CES.

TOPICS: Mobility, Hardware

CES coverage is everywhere you look across the world-wide web as it is the biggest consumer electronic show in the U. S. That's why you are being bombarded with coverage about Ultrabooks and tablets, the hot topics of this year's show. What you likely won't see in this year's show is the lowly ebook reader. It seems Amazon and Barnes & Noble have effectively locked up the category.

The past few years has seen small companies pushing their latest and greatest ebook readers to the CES crowd. The growth of the ebook industry has never been in doubt, and as usually happens companies want to cash in on the coin flow. Even CE giants Sony and Sharp have jumped in with their ebook readers in the past, but this year it's all strangely silent.

B&N and Amazon have driven just about everyone else out of the ebook reader sector, especially since the most recent foray into tablets. The Kindle Fire and B&N Nook Tablet are reported to be selling like hotcakes, further eroding consumer demand for the lowly ebook reader. Why get a limited reader when you can have a hot tablet for just a few bucks more?

So don't expect to see many ebook readers on the CES show floor, and if you do it will be a fluke. Most likely you won't see them later in the marketplace, at least not for long. It's pretty much game over for the rest of the ebook reader crowd.

Also see: CNET’s CES coverage and Join us for Lenovo’s CES 2012 press conference (Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. PT) | Lenovo IdeaPad Z, G, and Y series updates focus on better graphics, not much else

Topics: Mobility, Hardware

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  • I really hope you are wrong

    "Why get a limited reader when you can have a hot tablet for just a few bucks more?"

    You make it sound like there are absolutely no downsides to these "hot" tablets. There is 1. A huge one. The screen sucks for reading books. While I can't speak about the Fire and the Nook, the iPad 2 is a big heavy monstrosity when all you want to do is read a book.

    So I, for one, really do hope you are wrong when you write:
    "Most likely you won't see them later in the marketplace, at least not for long."

    Unless of course these tablets become readable in daylight and go on a severe diet.
    • RE: What you won't see at CES: Ebook readers

      Completely true. eInk wins. But eInk sucks for video. So unless someone can merge two screen types, there will always be two categories.

      I would never read a book on a tablet. eInk is just so superior.
      • The Nook Simple Touch is now free with a subscription to the NYT

        The Nook Simple Touch is now free with a subscription to the NYT

        But you won't see anything at ZDNet about it until several days after, or ever. Perhaps 1 blog by Ricardo or Gloria.

        If it were Amazon the one giving away the Kindle, automatically at least Perlow, Adrian, Dignan would be blogging about it. The first would tell us "I told you so", the second would tell us "it's doomed, buy a US$500+ iPad instead", and the third would be posting a financial chart of Amazon and making predictions.

        ZDNet has become too hostile or indifferent to anything except Apple and sometimes Amazon
    • Both Amazon and B&N have eInk tablets, so the author's

      original argument still stands.
  • RE: What you won't see at CES: Ebook readers

    I have to disagree. It's the same reason I do not commute to work in a GMC Hummer or drive a full utility truck 100% of the time. I have no need for it, and a small fuel efficient car meets my needs better. It does not have the same horse power or the same cargo space as a larger vehicle but it gets far better fuel mileage, like a dedicated e-reader is a better reading device.<br><br>It's also the reason I have a simple calculator on my desk. It works well for what it does. And they still sell calculators.<br><br> That being said, I do think that e-readers will be less exciting to cover as new products and that the buzz will die down... but the device is here to stay.
  • RE: What you won't see at CES: Ebook readers

    I think its early in the market, so I'm disappointed that no one is pushing forward in this sector. Amazon and Barnes & Noble are selling the devices in order to sell the books, which is fine, but e-readers ultimately have to have intrinsic value rather than being merely a portable vending machine.

    I just finished my first page 1 through page 290 (when held portrait mode) book on the device that infuriates toddybottom, and I enjoyed the reading - some of which was outdoors and meant I had to play with the angles to minimize the glare. Once settled in, I was taken out of the experience by a page which began with an orphan. I've also struggled with 8-1/2 x 11 pdfs not really fitting well and using Calibre to convert them to e-pub format makes the layout worse.

    Meanwhile, The New Yorker looks beautiful, but it's 250 MB per week.

    The opportunity is for a reader that leads the way in terms of a good display, a non-proprietary layout, text and graphics encoding, and integrated tools which allows publishers to design to the medium. In addition, there should be digital ways to annotate, highlight, and dogear the books. Whether the economics, today, support such a device and software, I don't know.

    I hope someone will come back and innovate in the sector, once the tablet frenzy has subsided and people start to think about where else there's money to be made. People will pay more for a better reading experience. The question is can manufacturers make it, software coders write it, sales channels be open to it, and content producers stock for it?
    • RE: What you won't see at CES: Ebook readers

      It also may be that CES is too big and expensive, so the e-readers are announced another way. Or, e-readers are very Christmas-gifty and a January show is too soon.
      • RE: What you won't see at CES: Ebook readers

        @DannyO_0x98 Agreed. All of the major players (I'll include the Sony Reader and the Kobo, as well as Amazon and Nook) did a product refresh for the holiday selling season and they don't have anything new to introduce this soon. The eInk category is more mature than tablets so we shouldn't expect to see major updates more than once a year, unless color eInk finally makes its way out of the lab and into real products.

        Given that we already have an established Big Two and also two established second tier players, I don't think the eInk reader category is very open to additional competitors right now. The limiting factor on pricing is the cost of the eInk display; a new entrant would not be able to offer a big price advantage, especially not when Amazon is willing to sell readers near cost and make its money selling books.
  • Color eInk

    It's supposedly years away, and once it's ready, I expect Amazon and B&N to have some. Yet, there's going to be demand for that.
    • Interferometric Modular Displays (IMOD)

      The new IMOD displays are expected to start appearing in devices before the end of 2012. One of the biggest problems to overcome with these displays is lower frame rates. The issues with response speed are related to the fact that these displays are electromechanical in nature (tiny physical movements are involved in their operation). The new prototypes are reported to operate at 30 frames per second, which makes them acceptable for many applications, even video playback.
  • RE: What you won't see at CES: Ebook readers

    We have 10" & 7" color tablets. They show photos great & surf google & facebook pretty well. However, for reading a book I use my Sony e-ink reader. It is much easier on the eyes and does not suffer fron reflected glare. Multiple fonts help as my vision gets worse or even as my eyes get tired. Sony has (or had) a $50 trade-in credit toward a new reader $99 - $50, cost me $49. Can't beat that. Does not surf the net, but displays books perfectly. Love it.
  • RE: What you won't see at CES: Ebook readers

    I own both a Kindle 2 and a Fire and wouldn't give up either. In their cases, the Fire weighs just 1 oz more than the Kindle 2. Although I read my newspaper subscription on the Fire because the photos are better in high resolution color, if I'm going to do a lot of reading, the eInk is just much easier on the eyes. The basic point of the article is correct, however. Amazon and B&N have pretty much cornered the market. They did it by integrating the ebook readers with the content. Thus far Amazon has treated me fairly in terms of pricing and supply of books in Kindle format (aside from the recent jump in pricing that resulted from the cynical manipulation of the market by Apple!). In the long run perhaps I'll be unhappy having to get my ebooks from the same supplier as my reader. On the other hand, the prices of dedicated ebook readers have dropped so low that if Amazon starts to abuse my loyalty as a customer, I will drop them without hesitation.