Are tablets driving e-readers to extinction?

Moderated by Rachel King | December 17, 2012 -- 07:00 GMT (23:00 PST)

Summary: One niche device after another is falling victim to convergence. Are e-book readers next?

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes




Matthew Miller

Matthew Miller

Best Argument: No


Audience Favored: No (63%)

The moderator has delivered a final verdict.

Opening Statements

Why carry two devices when one will do?

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: This is the mantra that has seen the camera, GPS receiver, media player, portable games, and much more all converge into portable devices such as smartphones and tablets. Why? Simple. It is far easier to carry one device than many.

Given that post-PC devices have already put a myriad of consumer electronics devices on the endangered list, it is only a matter of time until the humble e-reader is kicked to the curb by the tablet. And why not? Both devices are flat, slate-like objects designed to be held in the hand, with a screen on one side.

Another factor is price. When the only mainstream tablet available to was the iPad, cheap e-readers were an attractive option; but as the price of tablets have fallen, this factor is now moot. Why would someone choose a single-purpose device when they can get a multi-purpose tablet for roughly the same price?

The days of the e-reader are numbered.

I always go back to my e-book reader

Matthew Miller: I own a few tablets (iPad, Surface RT, Nexus 7, HP TouchPad, HTC Flyer) and primarily use them for media consumption or content creation. They all support multiple e-book applications and can be used for reading, but I always go back to my Kindle or other e-book reader. My book reading experience is much better on a dedicated e-reader because I get a distraction-free period of time on an eye comforting display to dive into my books. It is not enjoyable to read e-books on an iPad at the beach or by the pool and also can be a financially dangerous move.

Prices have dropped to just about $100 for most e-readers, which is still less than half the cost of most tablets so there is a cost savings if your primary intent for a tablet is to read books. It has been a long road for e-reader manufacturers to convince the public that reading electronic books can be just as good as paper books and there are still many who prefer paper (my oldest daughter for one), but I think the exposure to devices like the iPad are convincing people to take a second look at e-books.

Tablets may actually help the e-reader market as people first discover they can enjoy books on an electronic device and then find that the book reading experience is even better on a lightweight, eInk-based e-reader that is less expensive and has a battery that lasts forever.


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  • Do They Have e-Ink Tablets?

    We can't see the screens of tablets in the bright California sun (I can't even see my iPhone screen). e-Ink allows us to read even in ultra-bright sunlight. Color is not an issue if you can't see it.
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for No
    • Key word in title: "driving"

      Technology doesn't stand still. The color experience WILL improve.
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Different devices

    I think we need both types of devices. Hopefully we get cheaper readers, they are kind of expensive just for reading. Readers have better screen for reading, better battery life, they weigh less and they dont heat up. Also easier to read in sunlight.
    Juan Ean
    Reply 1 Vote I'm for Yes
    • Why would one need a dedicated e-reader when...

      ...the same functionality exists on tablets, cell phones, and personal computers?

      Personally, my Android phone has become my emergency book collection (much nicer than reading magazines in doctor's offices). A lot of great public domain books have been published over the last three millennia or so (currently, I'm working on Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations").
      John L. Ries
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • It's not just functionality that matters

        As I wrote in my comment below, a primary consideration for book readers is WEIGHT. Tablets will always weigh more than a device dedicated to reading. As for reading on a cellphone, it works, and I've read at least one short book on a phone. But the experience is much more satisfying on an eReader. If phones were satisfactory for reading and web surfing and such, then tablets would be phased out. You don't see that. And you won't see eReaders disappear, either. What's cool is that we have so many choices.
        Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • Your use of the word "emergency" says it all.

        All e-readers are about the size of a paperback book. They fit into your pocket. A cellphone screen is often too small and a tablet screen is often too large.
        M Wagner
        Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided
        • Yea1

          I hate reading on a tablet. Its almost like reading a full sized textbook. Form factors above a paperback are actually pretty pointless. I like squinting too.
          Reply Vote I'm Undecided
  • Over time the two devices will converge.

    As the in sunlight readability of tablets improves and the price of tablets goes down dedicated e-readers will slowly fade away.

    The problem I have with e-readers in general is unlike a physical book you don't own the ebook, you just have a license to read them and that license can be revoked at any time. Something I'm not comfortable with considering the cost of physical books and ebooks are nearly the same and in some instances physical books are actually cheaper.
    Reply 2 Votes I'm Undecided
    • When was the last time your e-book licenses were checked?

      Even when your "license to read" were to be revoked, I don't see how they will enforce it...
      Reply Vote I'm Undecided
      • How about lending that e-book

        to your relatives or friends? Oh! It's copy protected. Too bad! Can't borrow it from a friend or from the library? Too bad! I have an iPad, but for reading books I will stick with paper.
        Reply 1 Vote I'm Undecided